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United capture Eastern Conference title with 2-1 win over Chicago

Needing only one point to take home an improbable worst-to-first Eastern Conference title run, D.C. United did what they have been doing all season long – producing wins – this one of course being the most important as the Black-and-Red defeated the Chicago Fire 2-1 tonight at chilly RFK Stadium.

One season after producing the single-worst record in MLS history, United turned the tables completely around and now will be the top seed in the Eastern Conference when the playoffs begin the weekend of November 1st. In a season that will not be forgotten anytime soon, this time for all the right reasons, perhaps United’s most impressive feat was to set the league-record with a turnaround of 42 points from last season to this year (United had 16 points all of 2013 and currently stand at 58 points with one match remaining). In addition to the amazing turnaround, United also has qualified for the 2015-2016 CONCACAF Champions League group stages which begin late next summer. United has already advanced to the knockout stage of the 2014-2015 competition which will begin in February of next year.

Chris Pontius’ first goal of the season and Eddie Johnson’s game-winner in the second half powered United to a frantic victory over the Fire. Chicago, long out of the playoff chase, fell behind by two goals but had the intestinal fortitude to not give up and gave United quite a battle and when Harrison Shipp scored between Bill Hamid’s legs in the 67th minute to make things interesting.

Hamid was called on to make another couple of saves and even got some good fortune when a redirected shot from Shipp bounced off the goalpost and into the grateful arms of Hamid just a few minutes after the visitors had cut the deficit in half.

United, as they have done most of the season, withstood the challenge and now have won the Eastern Conference title for the first time since the 2007 season.

From the jump both teams played a bit cautious and the match began to beg for a singular moment to jump start the action. That moment came in the 28th minute when Quincy Amerikwa beat United’s defense to the end line and rolled a pass to the penalty spot where former Liverpool striker Florent Sinama-Pongolle was waiting at the penalty spot. His one-time shot was somehow saved by a Hamid leg kick, a type of save that is now becoming routine in Hamid’s play.

That save sparked the match to life and United took the lead just three minutes later. Nick DeLeon took down a ball in midfield and played Eddie Johnson on his overlapping run down the right sideline. The much-maligned striker didn’t hesitate and hit a one-time curling cross that found Pontius on the back post in stride and the UCSB product placed his header perfectly between goalkeeper Kyle Reynish and the near post for his first league goal since September of last year.

After the break United would double their lead thanks to lapse in concentration from the Fire defense. Patrick Ianni’s attempted back pass in the 57th minuted caught the back heel of fellow midfielder Chris Ritter and the deflected ball fell right into the path of Johnson. Johnson, starting for United’s injured leading scorer Luis Silva, pounced on the mistake and only had defender Jeff Larentowicz between him and the goal. Johnson’s pace was no match for Larentowicz as he pushed the ball to his right and slipped a shot easily past Reynish for the 2-0 lead.

United now turn their attention towards their final CONCACAF Champions League Group 4 match when they travel to Panama to take on Tauro FC on Tuesday night. With qualification already assured, head coach Ben Olsen already has stated that he plans to take his reserves on the road to give a rest to his starters ahead of their final league match next Saturday in Montreal.

United still has an outside chance of taking over MLS #2 seed overall heading into the playoffs. United will need both a victory in Montreal coupled with either Los Angeles or Seattle sweeping their two-game head-to-head series that begins tomorrow night in Los Angeles. Additionally, if the Galaxy and Seattle draw tomorrow and Seattle wins their return leg, United will tie the Galaxy on 61 points (provided they win in Montreal) but win the first MLS tie-breaker in total wins. Los Angeles and United are currently tied with 17 wins apiece.

Gaining the #2 overall seed is important because whichever of the two teams in the West loses in the playoffs and United makes it to MLS Cup, then MLS Cup will be right here at RFK Stadium on November 7th.

 

Houston hex is kaput as United take 3-1 win in Texas

D.C. United all but assured their Eastern Conference title with their first-ever win in Houston, 3-1 this afternoon at BBVA Compass Stadium.

Taylor Kemp’s first half rocket gave United it’s first-ever lead in the state of Texas against the Dynamo and the Black-and-Red also added goals from Fabian Espindola and Eddie Johnson in the second half to finally end an 8-year drought in Houston.

With the win, United only needs a draw themselves in their two remaining matches (at home vs Chicago and away to Montreal) or have second-place teams Sporting Kansas City or New England not win either or their two remaining matches to complete a highly unlikely worst-to-first situation.

Although the result was fantastic for United some bad news did come their way when forward Luis Silva, arguably United’s most effective player this season, appeared to have pulled a hamstring just minutes after the match was restarted after a first-half weather delay that lasted over an hour. Eddie Johnson subbed in for Silva and then played a major role in their historic win.

After the match was stopped in the 23rd minute due to a lightning thunderstorm, United pressed the issue and took the lead in the 41st minute. Fabian Espindola split the Houston defense and found Chris Pontius bearing down on goal. Dynamo goalkeeper Tyler Deric’s sliding save kept Pontius off the score sheet but the rebound came to Kemp. The second-year defender from the University of Maryland took a steadying touch and unleashed an angled left-footed rocket from 18 yards through a thicket of Dynamo players and ripped the far side netting for his first-ever goal in MLS.

United continued to push forward and doubled their lead in lightning fashion in the 64th minute. United was defending a Houston free kick in their defensive half and before you could look up, United had taken a 2-0 lead. Brad Davis’ free kick flicked off of Espindola and redirected into the penalty area. Sean Franklin quickly cleared the ball up field to Espindola who was in acres of empty space. United’s talisman took off unopposed towards the Dynamo goal and scooped his shot over the hard-charging Deric just as Davis was trying to arrive on the scene. The ball easily slipped into the goal for Espindola’s tenth goal on the season to goal along with his nine assists.

However, after United had multiple chances to extend the lead to 3-0, Houston got back into the game in the 83rd minute when they were awarded a penalty when Franklin had taken down Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark. Englishman Giles Barnes stepped up and sent Bill Hamid the wrong way to cut the lead in half with just about seven minutes left in the match.

With nerves jangling knowing United’s putrid history in Houston (0-11-1 all time in all competitions heading into the match), the Black-and-Red have done what they’ve done virtually all season long – bounce back in a big way. With Houston pushing numbers forward, United caught the home side uneven on numbers as David Estrada starting the game-clinching sequence in the 87th minute. The substitute’s cross field pass from the left flank hit Franklin perfectly in stride as he arrived in the penalty area. Immediately Franklin settled the pass and pushed a delicate pass to Johnson at the penalty spot. The much-maligned striker took a touch and calmly slotted the ball past Deric to give United’s arguably it’s most important goal of the season. The goal was Johnson’s sixth of the season.

United fought off repeated challenges from the pesky Dynamo to scrape back into the game and salted it away officially when Hamid denied Clark from 20 yards out and at that point United finally had beaten the Houston Dynamo in Houston.

United will now turn their attention to their last home game of the season on Saturday night at RFK against the Chicago Fire, again needing only a draw to secure home-field advantage through the Eastern Conference playoffs, and more importantly a spot into the 2015-2016 version of the CONCACAF Champions League group stage next summer.

Eddie Johnson

United advances to knockout round of CONCACAF Champions League with 2-0 win over Tauro FC

Second-half goals from Chris Pontius and Eddie Johnson (above, photo: Tony Quinn.) were more than enough to propel D.C. United into the knockout round of the 2014-2015 CONCACAF Champions League after their comfortable 2-0 win over Tauro FC of Panama last night at soggy RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

Needing only one point to win Group 4, United had to wait through a somber first half before Chris Pontius’ 49th minute header provided the only goal United would need. Eddie Johnson would double the lead in the 53rd minute after some attractive build up play and United were well on their way to advancing to next Spring’s knockout quarterfinal round.

Ben Olsen once again decided to employ a reserve side, just as he did in their opening group match at RFK against Waterhouse FC in August. This time however, in spite of a long feeling out period in the first half, United were in control of the match from the kickoff and twice nearly got the opening goal in the first forty-five.

Pontius’ header from an Alex Caskey cross in the 11th minute nearly opened the scoring for the Black-and-Red. United’s best opportunity though came on a free kick in the 38th minute. With Pontius over the ball from 25-yards out, he rolled the ball to his right where Jared Jeffrey unleashed a rocket that crashed off the crossbar before finally being cleared out by the Tauro FC defense.

After the break United would strike when Samuel Inkoom’s inch-perfect cross from the right sideline met the forehead of Pontius who easily beat Tauro goalkeeper Erick Hughes for the 1-0 lead. This was the second match in a row that an Inkoom cross from the flank resulted in a United goal in this competition when he assisted on Fabian Espindola’s opener in last week’s 2-1 win in Jamaica over Waterhouse FC. The goal was Pontius’ first goal since an MLS league match in September of 2013 last season.

Johnson, who subbed in for Pontius who is still trying to build his fitness after nearly a year off from injury, benefited from some sparkling approach play in the 53rd minute to put the game out of reach for the Panamanian visitors. Alex Caskey received a ball in the middle of the field and immediately pushed the ball out to Inkoom. Inkoom then found David Estrada running deep into the penalty area. With a Tauro FC defender draped all over him, Estrada one-timed a lovely back heel into the path of Johnson who clinically finished off the underside of the crossbar. Johnson has missed the last three league matches and the match in Jamaica last week dealing with concussion symptoms and came into the match wearing concussion headgear.

With the match all but over, United simply passed their way in an around their opponents and probably should have banked a third goal in the 90th minute but Estrada somehow managed to side foot a cross from Johnson wide of the empty net in front of him.

Never the less, United is off to the quarterfinal round which will begin in late February/early March of 2015. United still has one more match to play and could wrap up a top seed with a win in Tauro in mid-October. No doubt with passage secured to the next round, Olsen will once again bring a team of reserves to keep the legs fresh for his normal starters as the MLS season winds to a close in October.

Up next for United is a home match on Saturday afternoon against the Philadelphia Union at 3:50pm EST. This match will be televised nationally on NBCSN beginning at 3:30pm EST.

United extends lead in East after 2-0 win over Red Bull

Second-half goals from Luis Silva and Eddie Johnson helped D.C. United to a 2-0 victory over bitter rivals New York Red Bull this afternoon at sticky RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

The win for United (14-8-4, 46 points) extended their lead at the top of the Eastern Conference to four points over second place Sporting Kansas City and thirteen points over a trio of squads tied for third. The win also clinched the Atlantic Cup for United, a trophy made up especially for this rivalry. Red Bull had won three of the previous four Atlantic Cups before today’s win (in combination with an early season win) for the Black-and-Red.

United would dictate the terms early in the match on a steamy mid-afternoon kickoff. Fabian Castillo had a semi-breakaway but his low drive was parried out by Red Bull goalkeeper Luis Robles inside of the first five minutes. A pair of defensive miscues from the visitors would give United two more golden chances to take the lead but a poorly timed flop from Luis Silva and a hesitant shot from Nick DeLeon came to nothing for United.

United’s best and last chance in the first half came when Silva was sent through in combination with Espindola but his chip attempt was easily snared by a theatrical diving save from Robles.

Red Bull finally started to get themselves in gear and should have taken the lead in the 31st minute when MLS’ leading goalscorer Bradley Wright-Phillips found himself inside the six-yard area all alone but his header was expertly saved by red-hot goalkeeper Bill Hamid.

Hamid would once again come up big at the end of the half when he would smother Lloyd Sam’s shot from ten yards through heavy traffic.

After the break the deadlock was finally broken in the 52nd minute, and it all started with Hamid. The goalkeeper’s long ball was nodded on by Espindola into the path of Silva who took advantage of a miscommunication between Robles and defender Ibrahim Sekagya and took a touch around the goalkeeper and easily slotted it home. The goal was Silva’s eight of the season, tying his previous total goal output over the past two seasons with Toronto FC and United.

Eddie Johnson, coming off the bench for the first time as a member of United,  came on for Silva a few minutes after the go-ahead goal and immediately injected himself into the flow of the match. Johnson should have set Espindola up for a tap-in just seconds after being on the field but his well intentioned but ultimately flawed pass was behind him to kill that threat. Johnson also set up Chris Rolfe but his angled bid was well saved from Robles to keep the scoreline at 1-0.

Red Bull would only really threaten once more the entire match and it was a half-chance at best when substitute Saer Sene came on and found himself in the middle of a scrum in the penalty area and and was unable to poke home the loose ball before United stalwart Perry Kitchen cleared the ball to safety.

Kitchen would factor into the insurance goal United would score in the 91st minute when he set Johnson loose on a breakaway. Johnson timed his flat run perfectly past a very tired Red Bull back four but still had work to do to grab the goal. Johnson’s first touch in open space was a controlling header that he nearly misplayed but ultimately got down to the ground. As he approached Robles, he chipped the ball over the prone goalkeeper but not before Robles got a slight hand on the shot. The ball still had enough juice on it to carry into the far side of the goal to give Johnson his fifth goal of the season and United comfort in pushing their rivals further away from them in the Eastern Conference.

After finishing a brutal 5-game in 15 day stretch, United will take the next two days off and return to training on Wednesday ahead of their match in Vancouver next Saturday evening. United will then have to come back East and take on this very same Red Bull team just four days later at Red Bull Arena.

 

 

Early goal enough for United in CONCACAF Champions League opener

D.C. United’s return to the CONCACAF Champions League was a successful one as Eddie Johnson’s early goal held up in their 1-0 victory over Jamaican side Waterhouse FC last night at RFK Stadium.

The win for United puts them in a first place tie with Waterhouse FC at 3 points while Tauro FC of Panama sits at the bottom of Group 4 with zero points. United will play Waterhouse FC in Jamaica in two weeks before wrapping up group play with a home-and-home series with Tauro in September and October.

With United in the midst of a grueling schedule of 5 games in 15 days, head coach Ben Olsen changed out his entire starting X1 from Saturday’s 4-2 league win over Colorado at RFK. Johnson is the only nominal starter for Olsen’s squad to make the lineup and that had everything to do with Johnson serving a two-match suspension in league play.

That bit of misfortune benefited the Black-and-Red as they jumped out to an early lead in just the fifth minute. Conor Shanosky’s long ball over the defense of Waterhouse FC found David Estrada in stride. Estrada pulled back a pass right to the penalty spot where Johnson slammed the ball into the roof of the net just as the goalkeeper was coming out to snuff out the pass.

After that point the match devolved into a series of half-chances and near misses for both sides, with very little creativity being shown not surprisingly as United did have an entirely makeshift lineup on the field which included Nana Attakora and Alex Caskey manning the outside fullback positions.

United had multiple opportunities late in the match to extend their lead but settled for a stout defense in claiming their first win in the CCL since beating Marathon of Honduras 3-0 in the fall of 2009.

United now turns their attention to a very difficult trio of matches that begins with a Saturday/Wednesday road trip to Sporting Kansas City and the Los Angeles Galaxy respectively. Olsen’s gamble to go with mainly reserves has given his taxed squad an opportunity now to take points from two venues where points have been at a premium in recent years.

United rolls to fourth win in a row in 3-0 defeat over Toronto FC

Eddie Johnson’s third goal in as many games staked D.C. United to an early lead on their way to an impressive 3-0 thrashing of Toronto FC tonight at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

United (11-5-4, 37 points) pulled within a point of Sporting Kansas City and the Seattle Sounders for the top spot in MLS. The win is their fourth in a row and fifth in six matches. The result also extended United’s lead over third-place TFC to 11 points.

Chris Rolfe added his fourth goal of the year early in the second half followed by an own-goal from TFC defender Nick Hagglund as he headed into his own net after a dazzling run through the entire back line by Nick DeLeon to set up the goal.

This game was a track meet from the opening whistle. TFC midfielder Dominic Oduro was in alone on goal in the 4th minute but shot just wide of Bill Hamid’s far post. Hamid’s positioning would be a major factor all night as he generated seven saves in the first half to keep United in the lead.

United took the lead in the eighth minute when Perry Kitchen’s lofted chip from the right side of the penalty area met Johnson at the far post who easily nodded past TFC goalkeeper Joe Bendik.

After the break United busted the game open thanks in part to a rare non-call from a referee that doubled United’s lead. On the hour mark, DeLeon made the first of two amazing runs through the TFC defense and pulled a cut-back move that forced TFC defender Warren Creavale to haul down DeLeon in the penalty area. However, match referee Chris Penso did well to play advantage as Rolfe picked up the loose ball and easily beat Bendik to the near post.

DeLeon crushed any residual  hopes for a TFC comeback  just seven minutes later when he ghosted past two TFC defenders and was in alone on Bendik. The TFC keeper did well to deflect DeLeon’s bid but Hagglund’s momentum in getting back to cover the goal line caused a moment of confusion and the rookie inadvertently headed into his own net for the final goal.

United now will turn their attention to Sunday night’s match in Houston. Houston has been a House of Horrors to United historically as the team has never won a game either at the old Robertson Stadium or the recently erected BBVA Compass Stadium. United has only managed a pair of draws lifetime in the state of Texas against the Dynamo.

Sunday’s game will be shown locally on Comcast SportsNet at 8pm EST.

United’s easily dispatches Chivas USA in 3-1 win

Eddie Johnson had a goal and an assist to help lead D.C. United to a very comfortable 3-1 win tonight over Chivas USA at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

The win for United (10-5-4, 34 points) is a season-high third straight and helps them keep pace with red-hot Sporting Kansas City who sit just one point ahead of the Black-and-Red at the top of the Eastern Conference. Chivas USA had won four straight matches coming into the game, a match up of two teams that had turned their disappointing 2013 seasons around much faster than anyone had anticipated.

Johnson converted a penalty kick, his second straight game doing so, in the 25th minute after United midfielder Chris Rolfe was barged over in the penalty area by Chivas midfielder Oswaldo Minda.

United nearly doubled and tripled their lead late in the first half when Johnson’s header caromed off the crossbar followed shortly by another header off the crossbar, this time though by a Chivas USA defender.

After the break United continued their domination and once again the Rolfe-Johnson combo provided the game-winner in the 59th minute. Rolfe’s free kick found Johnson deep in the penalty area and the mercurial striker knocked a header down perfectly into the path of Perry Kitchen who’s left-footed blast easily beat goalkeeper Dan Kennedy to his left for his third tally of the season.

If that wasn’t enough, United surely put the game out of reach just over ten minutes later when Chris Korb’s through ball found Luis Silva who easily slipped the ball past Kennedy to give the home side an impressive 3-0 lead. Silva, filling in admirably for injured striker Fabian Espindola, scored his fifth goal in five games.

The only thing left to do was to try to get United goalkeeper Bill Hamid a shutout in his 100th MLS appearance. However that was spoiled in the 84th minute when Chivas USA were awarded a very soft penalty when midfielder Mauro Rosales flopped under very little pressure from United rookie defender Steve Birnbaum.

Erick “Cubo” Torres stepped up and beat Hamid to his right to spoil the shutout bid. Torres’ goal was his 14th of the season and his sixth straight game scoring a goal. Torres was essentially neutralized all night long until his penalty kick opportunity.

United now will have a ten-day break from league play and return to action on Wednesday, July 30th when they welcome Michael Bradley and Toronto FC to town. Before that however, United will fly down to Jacksonville, Florida to take on English side Fulham FC on Saturday night in an exhibition match.

Knowing this, United most likely will take a reserve team down to Florida as they being a hellish month of play with 9 matches in 32 days starting with their tilt with TFC next week.

Eddie Johnson

Coach leaves Eddie “Money” Johnson with no Ticket To Paradise

Every four years there are players around the world that are shockingly left off of their respective national team rosters for the World Cup, and every four years we wonder why talented stars such as Samir Nasri (France/Manchester City), Carlos Tevez (Argentina/Juventus), and Jermaine Defoe (England/Toronto FC) won’t be representing their countries on soccer’s greatest stage.   Perhaps it’s a sign of the evolution of the sport in this country that the United States has a legitimate snub story, in leaving Eddie Johnson off the roster (above left; Photo: Tony Quinn), to discuss in 2014.

DC United’s newly acquired forward Eddie Johnson, a regular fixture during World Cup qualifying, was left off the provisional 30 man roster of the US National Team, which must be trimmed to 23 players by June 2 to comply with FIFA regulations on official rosters. While it could certainly be argued that Johnson was a stretch to lock down a starting role for the USA, he’s probably the most dangerous player the team has available to bring off the bench, and his versatility would have afforded national team manager Jürgen Klinsmann multiple tactical options for substitutions and injuries.

Leaving EJ off the World Cup team is the biggest mistake since Steve Sampson left Roy Lassiter at home in preference to Roy Wegerle. As a fan of both Roy’s I can almost appreciate the difficulty in picking one over the other, but the sheer absurdity of that choice was cause to dismiss Sampson before the team left for France in 1998. Johnson’s omission isn’t a Sampsonesque disaster, but it’s positively a head scratcher when you consider that players like Terrance Boyd, Chris Wondolowski, Joe Corona, Brad Davis, Maurice Edu, and Kyle Beckerman, who while fine players in their respective leagues, have no business taking the field in a World Cup match. Yes, all of those players are good, and many of them have helped the USA to qualify for Brazil 2014, but none more so that Johnson, and not one of them has proven that they can consistently compete on the international stage. In stark contrast EJ has proved that he can do exactly that, and not only does it ring with the unjust sting of a punch in the stomach, it’s a huge mistake to leave him behind.

Eddie Johnson scores clutch goals. Be it for club or country, if you need a goal late in a game, EJ is you man. But he’s not a selfish poacher, or a one dimension speed demon. He’s arguably the most versatile player on the roster, able to play as a pure striker, a target man, setup man, or as a withdrawn forward. He’s also adept on either side of the wing midfield, contributing to a possession game while making slashing penetrating runs. He’s good with his feet, whether shooting or passing, one of a handful of US players that can actually beat a defender off the dribble, and he’s better than anyone on the roster in the aerial game. On top of all of that, he’s pretty damn fast to boot.

The knock on Johnson allegedly has been his slow start/poor form in MLS. This is hogwash. It’s nitwittery espoused by the mindless stat-crazed fools playing fantasy soccer. Anyone paying attention to Eddie Johnson’s play with DC United this year would have seen him integrating effectively with new teammates, at least six of whom are new to the team themselves. Judging EJ of his lack of goal scoring through seven games with a new team, and that being one that lacks a play making midfielder, is just silly. It’s also ignoring the blossoming forward partnership that he’s forged with fellow newcomer Fabian Espindola. It’s discounting the fact that Johnson wins every head ball that comes his way. It’s ignoring the tireless off the ball runs he’s making while not getting proper service out of the midfield. Additionally claims that Eddie is in a scoring slump ignore the fact that he’s had goals for both DC United and the United States wrongly disallowed by poor officiating. The fact is that Eddie Johnson is as close to top form as any player in the USA player pool.

The poor from rationale doesn’t hold water. Aside from the fact that the label is inaccurate, it’s not consistently applied to the selection of the other players on the team. Jozy Altidore is coming off a wretched year in the English Premier League with Sunderland, a club he was counseled not to sign with in the first place. Yes, you can make excuse that Sunderland is a trash heap club, but he chose to go there, and by the end of the season he was not only not starting, but mired on the bench behind a cast of donkeys. Even so, Altidore made the provisional World Cup roster in spite of a much more arguable case of poor present form. He’ll be going to Brazil because he’s the best forward we have. And good for Jozy, he’s earned it. But so has Eddie.

The suggestions that Eddie Johnson is a bad influence in the locker room, or that he pouts and sulks when things down go his way, are a lot of after the fact rumor and speculation drummed out to rationalize his exclusion. Maybe there really is something to all of that, but there’s just a general absence of honesty to this angle. Meanwhile Eddie’s reaction to the snub was pure class:

That’s not the reaction of player that fits the negative stereotype labels applied to EJ, or of a bad locker room influence, or of a sulking child. That’s the reaction to heartbreaking news from a ‘Grown Man’ as my friend Andrew Dixon would say.

The most frustrating part of this is the conventional understanding that Johnson was probably beaten out by Wondolowski. Wondo is a great MLS player, and a goal poacher of the highest order – in MLS. The World Cup however, is clearly beyond his reach, and there will be no goals to poach against Ghana, or Portugal, or Germany. Scoring goals against these teams is going to require the ability to play at the international game speed. Eddie Johnson can do that, and Chris Wondolowski cannot. Now maybe Wondo gets trimmed from the final roster in two weeks and makes this 1v1 comparison moot, but it also holds to the likes of Boyd, Corona, Edu, Davis, and Beckerman just as well.

At some point you have to allow a manager to select his player pool, his starters, and his tactics, accepting that he’s trying to assemble best “team” rather than a collection of the best players. That’s fair enough, but it’s a bitter pill to swallow when asked to accept that there’s no place on the US team for EJ’s level of skill, athleticism, and consistent production on the international stage.

To put a positive spin on this the USA’s loss is DC United’s gain. Eddie will now not miss United games while the US team is in pre-tournament training, or games while the team is away in Brazil for the World Cup. He’ll have more time to settle in with his new club, where he can set about being a part of restoring this team to its winning ways, and we will be treated to his clutch play, passion for the game, and professionalism.

Take us home tonight, Eddie. We love you!

It's been a rough week for Eddie Johnson. Photo: Tony Quinn.

Johnson’s late goal salvages 1-1 draw with Montreal

It’s been a rough few weeks for Eddie Johnson. Photo: Tony Quinn

Surprisingly left off the United States World Cup training camp roster in combination with a season-long scoring drought and not-so-flattering comments on his new team mates has added up to a ton of media attention and soul searching from the much-maligned 30-year old striker.

Perhaps now he can exhale and move on with the remainder of the season as he finally scored his first goal for D.C. United in last night’s 1-1 draw with the Montreal Impact. Johnson scored in the 84th minute and saved what would have been a very disappointing loss to the cellar dwelling Impact.

Both teams struggled throughout the match to grab any type of foothold but it was the Black-and-Red who fell behind through another defensive mistake in the 54th minute. Cristian Fernandez, for not the first time this season, was caught in possession along the right sideline and Justin Mapp swooped in to collect the wayward touch from United’s left-back. Mapp took the ball to the end line where he spotted bona fide United-killer Jack McInerney peeling away from Bobby Boswell. McInerney took one touch to settle and then toe-poked the ball into the far side netting.

Minutes later, the Impact should have salted the game away if not for some heroic defending from Bill Hamid and Chris Korb. Sanna Nyassi, who’s speed on the counter gave United trouble all night long, took advantage of a slip from defender Jeff Parke in the box to open up some space and fire a shot that Hamid did well to parry to his right. The rebound however fell right into the lap of the opportunistic McInerney who had an open goal to shoot at. Korb desperately lunged his body in the way and deflected the goal-bound effort into the hands of the surprised Hamid.

With that bit of good fortune provided, United pushed forward and nearly equalized in the 73rd minute when substitute Luis Silva’s shot stung the crossbar and deflected over. It was United’s second effort off the woodwork of the night as they nearly scored an own-goal way back in the  15th minute.

United persistence finally paid off in the 84th minute with the game-tying goal from Eddie Johnson. Photo Tony Quinn.

United persistence finally paid off in the 84th minute with the game-tying goal from Eddie Johnson. Photo Tony Quinn.

United persistence finally paid off in the 84th minute with the game-tying goal. Great combination work from Cristian to Chris Rolfe to Espindola freed up the Argentine playmaker down the left flank. Espindola’s cross was beautifully whipped in and met the rising Johnson at the edge of the six-yard box and his header was perfectly placed into the far corner giving former United goalkeeper Troy Perkins no chance.

While the result was acceptable on it’s face, it felt very much like a lost opportunity for United on the night as it was the last-place team in MLS in United’s backyard. United now will turn their attention to the Houston Dynamo who come to town for a midweek clash on Wednesday night at RFK Stadium. Houston is coming off a 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy last night, a win that pushed the Dynamo ahead of D.C. United and into a tie for second with Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference.