Chris Rolfe’s sixth-minute goal was just enough as D.C. United defeated the Philadelphia Union 1-0 yesterday at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. The win for United was their first win on the road in league play in 21 games spanning all the way back to October 2012.
More importantly, the win helped United (4-3-2 14 points) move into second place in the Eastern Conference alongside three other teams but United is ahead of those teams on goal difference. United also has games in hand on most of the teams in the conference as well.
All in all, not too bad of a start to the 2014 season considering the team dropped their first two matches of the season.
In a game that no one will keep loaded on their DVR’s beyond this weekend, it was United who struck first blood in the sixth minute.
Lewis Neal’s diagonal pass over the defense from the right flank found Cristian alone in the left side of the penalty area. The Spanish defender then drove his pass low and hard through the center of the penalty area where it deflected off Philadelphia midfielder Maurice Edu and right to Chris Rolfe who was all alone in the center of the penalty area. The former Chicago Fire man chested the ball down and struck a left-footed volley into the side netting for the games only goal.
The goal was Rolfe’s second of the season for United and the 50th of his MLS career.
United seemed to have doubled their lead late in the half when Davy Arnaud set striker Eddie Johnson free who finished with aplomb over the onrushing Zach MacMath. However, the assistant referee raised his flag, incorrectly, for offside. The frustrated Johnson still remains without a goal through his eight starts for United and now most likely will be leaving the squad for the World Cup training camp and tournament and will be missing at least 6 or 7 matches for the Black-and-Red.
After the break, both teams struggled to find a foothold in the match with United doing most of the defending. There was very little cohesion for United in the final half of the field as the team struggled to find possession. In the 63rd minute the defense was called upon to help keep the shutout, it’s third 1-0 victory in Philadelphia since the Union came aboard in MLS in 2010.
The sequence started when Andrew Wenger’s nice spin move past Jeff Parke got him some space right at the penalty spot. His shot was saved by the onrushing Bill Hamid and the rebound fell to United-killer Conor Casey but Hamid somehow managed to flash in front of the shot to block that goal bound attempt as well. From there it was a double-block from Perry Kitchen in front of the scrambling United defense and the eventual clear from Parke that helped preserve the precarious 1-0 lead.
It seemed from that point that all United had to do was exercise the ghosts of the previous week’s late-game collapse and game-winner in Portland and see the match out. United had two excellent opportunities with Philadelphia surging forward to add a second goal but both attempts came to nothing.
Substitute Alex Caskey was sent in beautifully by Rolfe only to have the ball caught up in his feet and he could not even get a shot off before MacMath pounced on his attempt. The second opportunity was much more wasteful when once Rolfe sent in Luis Silva who decided to try and curl an angled shot to the far post from 10 yards out rather then square the ball to a wide-open Caskey at the penalty spot to bury into an empty net.
Never the less, United did see the match out and can now move on to a two-match home stand which will see them take on the reeling Montreal Impact this upcoming Saturday night followed by a midweek match against the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday night May 21st.