After a disappointing draw over the weekend against cellar-dwellers Montreal, D.C. United rebounded with their most impressive 90-minute performance of the season in their 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo this evening at RFK Stadium.
Chris Rolfe and Fabian Espindola (above; Photo: Tony Quinn) had a goal and assist each to help vault United (5-3-3 18 points) into sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference. Houston was coming into the match on the heels of win over the Los Angeles Galaxy over the weekend but ran into a United team anxious to make up for a perceived lackluster performance in their 1-1 draw against Montreal.
United took control of the match almost immediately by gaining control of possession and tempo. Despite the territorial advantage the Black-and-Red were having trouble breaking down the tough Houston defense.
All that changed in the 29th minute thanks to some quick thinking from coach Ben Olsen and Lewis Neal. Olsen hustled to grab the ball that went out for a United throw and tossed it to Neal who quickly chucked the ball towards midfield. Fabian Espindola easily out-muscled Houston defender Jermaine Taylor and set off towards goal.
As Espindola was starting to pull away, his no-look pass to the left hit Chis Rolfe in stride. Rolfe easily sucked in defender David Horst with a sick cutback move onto his left foot as he entered the penalty area and unleashed a low left-footed blast past goalkeeper Tally Hall for his third goal of the season.
With United in full command, all Bill Hamid had to do was stop a semi-dangerous chance from Giles Barnes just outside the penalty area as halftime approached.
After the break the visitors predictably pushed the tempo, no doubt being verbally victimized by coach Dom Kinnear during the intermission for their poor first half showing.
United’s rock-solid defense was more than enough to handle the pressure and it was a near game-tying goal by Houston that actually set the stage for the games final goal in the 63rd minute.
Will Bruin, he of the eight goals in nine career matches against United, toe-poked a ball around Bill Hamid but United’s scrambling defense easily recovered. As the ball was sent out of the penalty area, Rolfe recognized the man-on-man advantage that Espindola had upfield against Horst.
Rolfe cleanly volleyed the ball to Espindola who immediately turned towards goal with only Horst in his way. The Argentine striker forced the hulking defender into a quick back-pedal before unleashing a low left-footed daisy cutter that gave Hall no chance.
Espindola’s goal was his team-leading fifth of the season and was doubly important as United was forced to play without Eddie Johnson who was suspended for his admittedly light challenge on Troy Perkins last Saturday.
United managed to deal with the late suspension with aplomb as Olsen shifted Rolfe into the strikers spot vacated by Johnson’s absence and bringing Neal into Rolfe’s normal midfield role.
United now will have to play their third game in a week when they travel to red-hot New England on Saturday night. New England is on a bona fide heater scoring 10 goals in their past two league matches.
The match will be at 7:30pm on Saturday night and will be televised on Comcast SportsNet.