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Hamid early, Silva late in United’s stoppage-time 1-0 win over Orlando City SC

Luis Silva’s 92nd minute free kick was the difference maker in D.C. United’s smash-and-grab 1-0 victory over Orlando City SC this evening at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.

Six days after Chris Pontius’ 93rd minute game-winner over the Galaxy, Silva stepped up and curled a clinical shot over the wall and off the mitts of Orlando City goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts to give United (3-1-0  9 points) their first road win of the season and back-to-back stoppage-time wins, a first in team history. Conversely, the expansion Florida side (1-2-2,  5 points) dropped their second match at home in a row via a stoppage time free kick. The win for United vaults them to the top of the Eastern Conference for at least a week until their rematch with Red Bull next weekend.

While the headlines deservedly go to Silva, it must be noted that goalkeeper Bill Hamid kept United in this game with a number of spectacular saves to frustrate the Lions. Hamid made a pair of point-blank stops inside the six yard box in the first half, first on defender Rafael Ramos’ bid and then thwarting midfielder Kevin Molino’s one-v-one effort off of a nice pass from Brazilian Designated Player and resident superstar Kaka.

United were on the back foot for most of the first half and finally settled into the game after the second of Hamid’s stunning saves. The Black-and-Red nearly grabbed the lead against the run of play when Chris Rolfe’s volley went inches wide of the far post, a shot that Ricketts would have had no chance to save.

After the break United started to gain more control of the match and severely limited the Lion’s chances to take the lead. In fact, it was United who should have taken the lead in the 68th minute  when a trio of shots somehow managed not to go into the goal. The play started with a beautiful diagonal ball over the top of Orlando City’s defense from defender Taylor Kemp. The ball met Sean Franklin in stride and his cut back on Aurelien Collin opened up a pass to the onrushing Conor Doyle. The substitute striker’s shot was well saved by Ricketts but right into the path of Chris Pontius who’s goal-bound bid was miraculously stabbed out of the way by retreating defender Brek Shea. The ensuing pop-up of Shea’s play was headed by Doyle but his bid was frustratingly palmed away by Ricketts for a corner kick.

United must have thought that was their golden opportunity to snatch all three points given that the team has been sporadic offensively through their first four league matches, undoubtedly due to the numerous injuries of key players and the suspension of leading scorer from last season Fabian Espindola. Fortunately for United a slight remedy was at hand as Silva was making his season debut with United when he came on for Rolfe in the 76th minute.

Silva managed to draw a foul at the edge of the area offset to the left when he was bowled over by Collin in the 91st minute. There was no question who was going to take the ensuing free kick and Silva made Orlando City pay dearly for their missed opportunities and silenced the crowd of 32, 822 with a curling effort just over the wall and out of the reach of the rangy Jamaican goalkeeper.

While United has been far from aesthetically pleasing through the first month of the season, the fact that they have banked 9 out of 12 possible points is encouraging as their injured players (and suspended ones) slowly start to make it back to the playing field. Things hopefully will get better from a soccer standpoint, but I really don’t think Ben Olsen cares at this point about the lack of flow offensively.

With that in mind, United has an opportunity to exact revenge on their bitter rivals New York Red Bull when they welcome them to RFK Stadium next Saturday night at 7pm. Red Bull easily defeated United 2-0 two weeks ago at Red Bull Arena.  This match will be televised live on CSNWashington.

 

United Notes

  • Eddie Johnson, out all season with an illness not yet officially disclosed by the team, was in attendance tonight and in the locker room after the match. According to eye witnesses, Johnson proclaimed, “I’ll be back soon”.. More good news perhaps???

Early Silva goal holds up; Lead extended to six points in the East

Luis Silva’s 10th-minute goal held up as D.C. United fought off a valiant effort from the Philadelphia Union in their 1-0 victory this afternoon at sun-splashed RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. in front of 19, 478 fans.

United (15-9-6, 51 points), playing at home for only the second time all month, extended their lead atop the Eastern Conference standing to six points over the New England Revolution and Sporting Kansas City, both sitting at 45 points after the Revolution went to Kansas City and got a big win last night.

With only four games remaining and Sporting coming to town on Friday night, United is in excellent position to put further distance between themselves and SKC and also move closer to clinching the Eastern Conference title and the automatic CONCACAF Champions League berth that goes with it in the 2015-2016 tournament.

Silva, the teams goalscoring leader with eleven on the season, put the Black-and-Red ahead in the 10th minute thanks to some determined work from Nick DeLeon. DeLeon drove at the Philadelphia defense and worked a cross to the opposite post where Chris Korb pulled the ball down. Korb’s pass to Sean Franklin got caught up in a thicket of players and fortunately rebounded back to him when his one-time left-footed cross met the forehead of Silva who nodded the ball just inside the far post.

United should have doubled the lead a bit later in the first half when Bill Hamid, who posted his ninth shutout of the season (11th overall for United), launched a ball over the Union defense and caught Fabian Espindola in stride. The tricky Argentine striker got to the ball just as Algerian goalkeeper Rais Mbohli was closing the space down and dribbled a shot towards the gaping empty net. However, Union defender Carlos Valdes was on the spot to clear the ball off the line. The play remained alive as Espindola picked up the loose ball and spotted Silva at the penalty spot. Silva’s one-time left-footer was grazed by Mbohli and then cleared again by Valdes off the line to keep the score at 1-0.

With the Union pushing the tempo in the second half, United failed to capitalize on numerous counter attack opportunities, particularly when second-half substitutes Chris Pontius and Eddie Johnson came into the match. Their failure to create any decent chances to put the match away kept the Union in the game as the visitor tried to carve out the game-tying goal. Their best chance came in the 86th minute when Perry Kitchen tripped and fell on the ball just outside the penalty area. Kitchen landed on the ball and was harshly given a yellow card which will keep him out of Friday’s match up with Sporting Kansas City due to an accumulation of yellow’s throughout the season.

Christian Maidana stepped up and sent his shot straight into the wall and United saw the remainder of the match out. The win for United is their 15th win on the season which means they have five times as many matches as they did a year ago (3 wins), a feat that no doubt will be repeated again in MLS any time soon.

 

United rallies from early deficit to 3-3 draw in Chicago

For the first half hour of tonight’s match between D.C. United and the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, it wasn’t looking too good for road-weary United.

Down 2-0 to a desperate squad on a terribly re-sodded pitch, you would have given the Black-and-Red the proverbial pass considering the team was wrapping up an 8 matches out of 11 stretch on the road, including a midweek match in Jamaica.

This team however are making believers of all United fans as they rallied to a 3-3 draw and pushed their precious lead at the top of the Eastern Conference standings to three points over idle Sporting Kansas City. With United already clinching the season series over SKC (with a head-to-head match still remaining in October at RFK), the three point cushion keeps them in first place even through next weekend when they welcome the Philadelphia Union to town after their lengthy road sojourn.

Luis Silva led the comeback with a pair of goals including a dead-cinch lock for Goal of the Week with a wicked free kick stunner in the 54th minute to level the match after United had fallen behind so early. Silva’s penalty kick conversion in the 39th minute had turned around a performance that was less then stellar until that goal. Silva leads United now with 10 goals on the season, all in the last 15 matches United has played.

United had designs on stealing all three points when Perry Kitchen finished off a bizarre play in the 58th minute to give United a 3-2 lead. Taylor Kemp’s free kick was flicked on in the area by Bobby Boswell and found Kitchen in a good spot with Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson rushing out to stop him. Kitchen got a touch to the ball to poke it past Johnson as it rolled towards the empty net. Fire defender Gonzalo Segares made a lunging attempt to clear it just as it crossed over the line. Boswell was on hand however to slam the clearance into the net to remove all doubt on the play. Once the league reviews the play, no doubt Kitchen will be rewarded with his 5th goal of the season.

However, as has been the case on occasion this season, United gave up the equalizer in the 78th minute when Matt Watson’s shot from 23 yards took a fatal deflection off of defender Steve Birnbaum and flew past the helpless Bill Hamid in goal.

All of the drama wouldn’t have been necessary had United not slept-walked through the games initial start. Chicago took the lead in the 16th minute when Quincy Amerikwa took advantage of a failed clearance from Taylor Kemp and curled a left-footed shot past Hamid for the 1-0 lead. In the 32nd minute the Fire doubled their advantage when Kitchen was judged to have tripped Amerikwa in the box. Jeff Larentowicz stepped up and blasted his shot past Hamid to give the home side the 2-0 lead.

With Chicago seemingly in control of the match, United received the lifeline they were looking for when Birnbaum was shoved over in the penalty area in the 38th minute by Fire defender Baky Soumare. Silva stepped up and strangely seemed to shoot right at Johnson as he dove to his right but the burly goalkeeper couldn’t keep the full force of the shot out and United’s comeback had it’s start.

With United at the tail end of their most devastating crunch of matches all season (7 out of 9 league matches on the road in addition to the midweek trip to face Waterhouse FC in Jamaica), Ben Olsen’s squad was missing their top player in Fabian Espindola to a red card controversially given ten days ago in a last-second 1-0 loss in New York as well as Eddie Johnson for a third consecutive league match with concussion symptoms although he did return to training late in the week.

This gave young Michael Seaton his first start in MLS up top with Silva and it also saw the MLS debut of Ghanaian International Samuel Inkoom on the right side of the midfield. Seaton was a non-factor until the last minute of stoppage time in the first half when he got a flick to well struck free kick from Silva that forced a diving fumbling save from Johnson to keep Chicago ahead 2-1 at the break.

After the break Olsen subbed in both Chris Pontius and Chris Korb into the lineup and brought off the two debutants and it paid immediate dividends on both ends of the field. Pontius’ pass set up Silva with a chance in the area but his shot was well defended by Fire defender Lovel Palmer who was throwing his body all over the field.

Korb helped to stabilize what had been a shaky first half performance from United’s usually staunch defense. Even though United were missing quite a few offensive weapons, their defense for the most part had been picking the team up through the past two league matches which saw United shutout in both of those matches in Vancouver and New York.

With the big road point, United now will play three of their remaining five matches at the friendly confines of RFK Stadium to close out the season. Before that however is a tricky midweek home match against Tauro FC in the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday night. All United needs is a draw against the winless side to advance to the knockout stages of the competition beginning next February. Conventional wisdom will have Olsen playing mostly a reserve side to help rest for their big match next Saturday afternoon when the welcome the Union to town. That match will be live on the NBCSports Network starting at 3:30 pm 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.

 

 

Second-half surge vaults United to 4-2 win over Colorado

After back-to-back disappointing road losses, D.C. United returned to RFK Stadium fueled by a Luis Silva brace and a 3-goal second-half outburst in their 4-2 win over the Colorado Rapids last night.

Silva’s double was his sixth and seventh goals of the season (career high) and set the tone for an enthralling match that saw both sides attacking at will, particularly in the second half.

Silva got the scoring started in the 13th minute thanks in part to a nice interception by defender Taylor Kemp. Kemp, filling in for injured starter Chris Korb, stepped in front of a slow-reacting Nick LaBrocca and pushed his pass into the path of Silva. With Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin and defender Drew Moor bearing down on him, Silva cut back on the ball and neatly chipped over the prone Irwin to give United the 1-0 lead. Unfortunately on the play, it appeared that Moor injured his right knee and was forced out of the match.

A mostly uneventful half from that point on got more interesting at the stroke of half time when United goalkeeper Bill Hamid was forced to make a reaction save on a close-range shot from Vincente Sanchez.

After the break the game broke wide open with the visitors leveling the match on a stunning goal from midfielder Dillon Serna in the 52nd minute. Hamid’s routine back pass clearance was headed by defender Jared Watts over a much-too-high line from United’s defense and Serna pounced on a bouncing ball and unleashed a 30-yard volley that dipped wickedly over the head of Hamid and into the goal.

Seemingly fueled by the indiscretion, United snapped into action and nearly equalized on numerous occasions, the best being a Fabian Espindol chip-shot off the crossbar with the rebound shot from Sean Franklin being well saved by Irwin. Franklin would also narrowly miss from 22-yards just a few minutes later as well as a Luis Silva bid hitting side-netting after some lovely approach work by Nick DeLeon to set up the chance.

United however would get the go-ahead goal in fine fashion in the 67th minute thanks to more good combination work along the right sideline between Franklin, DeLeon and Perry Kitchen. Franklin started the play pinned against the right sideline by the Rapids defense. His touch pass found DeLeon who one-timed a flick pass over his head to Kitchen who burst into the area. Kitchen somehow managed to push the ball into the path of Franklin who set up Silva to beat Irwin to his right and give United a 2-1 lead.

United increased the lead in the 81st minute when Kemp went on a 60-yard run down the left sideline and his perfectly weighted pass into the penalty area between three Rapids players found Chris Rolfe who expertly side-footed his shot past Irwin.

United were not done yet and pushed the lead to 4-1 in the 86th minute when substitute David Estrada took advantage of a poorly cleared header by Watts and set up Espindola for his team-leading 8th goal. Espindola by all rights should have increased United’s lead even further but his one-v-one attempt on Irwin in stoppage time was well saved.

Colorado would save face just a bit in the 91st when they pulled a goal back through some hard work from Dillon Powers. The second-year man from Notre Dame did well to hold possession in the penalty area and was forced to the end line by United defender Steve Birnbaum. However Powers’ pulled off an audacious chip that somehow stayed in bounds and floated to the far post where Deshorn Brown was waiting to head into the goal.

With the important three points gained after a dreadful fortnight on the road, United now faces their opening match  in the CONCACAF Champions League when they welcome Jamaican side Waterhouse FC into RFK. Waterhouse already has a 2-1 road win over Panamanian side Tauro FC under their belts, just adding to the pressure United has in light of their brutal schedule ahead of them.

After the match on Wednesday, United goes on the road for a Saturday/Wednesday trip to Sporting Kansas City and the Los Angeles Galaxy respectively, two places United has not fared well in their history.

 

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.

Silva hat trick propels United into first place at World Cup break

Luis Silva’s first-half hat trick pushed D.C. United to a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Impact at  soggy Stade De Saputo tonight in Montreal, Canada. The win for United (7-4-4 25 points) vaulted them past the idle New England Revolution and into first place heading into a two-week break for the World Cup which starts tomorrow afternoon in Brazil.

Silva, starting in place of injured Designated Player Eddie Johnson, got United off to a quick start in the 6th minute after receiving a nice through ball from Fabian Espindola and putting the ball between the legs of former United goalkeeper Troy Perkins. Espindola, who had three assists on the night, almost didn’t make it past the opening kickoff when he was inexplicably chopped down by Impact midfielder Felipe Martins literally three seconds into the match.

United’s talisman limped to the sidelines but shook off the nasty challenge and led United on a four-goal outburst that matched their season-high for goals in a game (4-1 win over FC Dallas on April 26th). More importantly it was a key road win for the Black-and-Red as they face a road-heavy league schedule after league play starts back up at the end of June.

After the great start for United, the Impact drew level in the 12th minute through Jack McInerney. McInerney has feasted on United in his short MLS career and added his second goal against them this season when United defender Bobby Boswell was a bit too lax in closing him down and his angled shot beat goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra to the far post. Dykstra was a replacement for Bill Hamid who suffered a slight knock in United’s less than enthralling 0-0 draw against Columbus this past Saturday night at FedEx Field.

United then fell behind in the 21st minute when some sloppy defending allowed the home side to take the 2-1 lead. Andres Romero did a good job weaving his way through a number of United players but his run through heavy traffic seemed destined to fall short when a toe-poke from Perry Kitchen sent the ball to United defender Sean Franklin. Franklin however displayed an uncharacteristic heavy touch which allowed Romero to swoop in and reclaim the ball and after a deke to his left, his near-post shot got by Dykstra.

Undaunted, United equalized just two minutes later when Espindola’s pass from the left flank curled perfectly into the path of Nick DeLeon to side foot into the goal for his first tally of the season.

After that point it was the Luis Silva show. United reclaimed the lead in the 39th minute when an errant pass was picked off by Espindola and his bungled touch fortunately fell into the path of Silva. Silva took off towards goal and the Montreal defense was most likely thinking that he would pass the ball to Espindola who was making his way towards the penalty area to Silva’s right. However, the now-confident Silva smoothly curled a shot from 25-yards out that Perkins could only get a finger to before it settled into the net.

Silva punctuated his performance with a stoppage-time penalty kick conversion after rookie defender Steve Birnbaum was hauled down in the area by Hassoun Camara during a corner kick. Silva stepped up and blasted his shot to Perkin’s right to give United what would be the final goal in a wet and wild 4-2 first-half.

After the break head coach Ben Olsen made the precautionary and smart move of subbing off Espindola who has easily been United’s best player through the first 15 games of the MLS season. Conor Doyle came on and encapsulated the all-out team effort to press the ball and not allow the Impact to dictate the second-half tempo.

United seemed to have stemmed the tide but a penalty called against Davy Arnaud in the 75th minute for a hand ball sent the nerves jangling a bit. However, a bit of fortune was with United on this night as Patrice Bernier’s penalty rang off the post and then the shoulder of Dykstra and somehow managed to roll over the end line for a corner. With that disaster averted the final 15 minutes was an exercise in patience and keep-away for United as they frustrated the Impact and walked out with a well deserved win.

United now will take a little time off before they play an Open Cup match in Rochester on Tuesday, June 17th against the Rhinos. If United advances against the third-division USL side, they will host a home match at the Soccerplex in Boyds, Maryland most likely against the New England Revolution in July.

United will return to league action on Saturday, June 28th when they host MLS’ other division leaders – the Seattle Sounders at RFK Stadium at 7pm EST.