DC United ended the most dubious streak of their storied history, and against the unlikeliest of opponents, with a 3-2 win over the Houston Dynamo.
The result gives United consecutive wins for the first time since June 2009, a run of 89 total matches and 21 opportunities along the way.
United relinquished two leads before Maicon Santos scored the game winner in the 70th minute, nodding home a Daniel Woollard cross from the left flank. It was also the first win against the Dynamo since that same year, going 0-4-1 since a 1-0 on April 4th at RFK Stadium.
But for their present situation, the win leaves United unbeaten in their last seven games (4-0-3) and they retain second place in the Eastern Conference.
United Coach Ben Olsen was asked if there is a sense of relief to finally win back-to-back games or is that more of a fan and media driven thing? “No (pause). It was a sense of relief,” said a deadpan Olsen before cracking a wry smile.
Dwayne De Rosario finally got his first of the campaign to forge United ahead for the second time in the match in the 54th minute. Will Bruin had equalized 4-minutes earlier, smashing home a volley off a Jermaine Taylor cross after being left unmarked from 6-yards out.
Santos’ first in the 11th minute was set up by a lovely cross from Chris Pontius from the right touch line. Pontius had slipped around Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall in the penalty area after Geoff Cameron misplayed a Brandon McDonald out of his backline some 35-yards from goal.
Pontius, along with the oft-injured Dejan Jakovic, are the only two players still on the roster when United defeated New York and Chicago for those back-to-back wins in 2009.
“I was like 21-years old then too?” said Pontius. “It’s obviously one of our goals to put some streaks together and if you look at the past four games, four Eastern Conference teams and we come out with 10 out of 12 points.
Pontius played up top for the second consecutive match, after recording his first hat trick as a professional in United’s 4-1 win against New York last weekend.
Olsen wanted to use Pontius’ mobility to draw out Houston’s big but not so mobile center backs, and then his speed to get in behind them in open space.
“We asked him tonight not to just stand on their two center backs because that is what they want,” said Olsen. “We wanted him to pull them out with runs in behind and runs underneath and I thought he did a very good job of executing that. It gave Maicon some room and it gave them a little bit of trouble.
United exploited the middle of the park with crisp one or two touch play for the first 20-minutes of the match though overall possession favored the Dynamo. Houston coach Dominic Kinnear countered by tucking in his wider players to deny that space but United still had the more fluid attack as Houston could only muster three shots on goal, all of which came in the second half.
“We know their strengths. They come and play physical, and you don’t get a lot of chances,” said Olsen. “We wanted to match the fight and then hopefully let the soccer take over. The soccer, early on, was very good. We had a little bit of trouble, we were having to go deep…losing the lead twice and coming back shows a lot of spirit. There’s something to this team, they’ve got a little bit of chutzpah.”
But United’s flow and rhythm was altered the most when center back Emiliano Dudar left late in the first half with a hamstring injury. With Jakovic (ankle) and Ethan White (knee) also out, Olsen will have to sort the center back slot out in short time with a Wednesday match at San Jose.
“We were a little disorganized,” said Olsen. “Again, I was proud of them, every one of them did their job tonight. We had a couple plays when we fouled up, and [Houston] capitalized and we had guys bail them out.”
“Anytime you have an injury where you have to adjust and not bringing guys in that are not playing that spot, you could tell there was a momentum change,” said Robbie Russell. “It took us 30-minutes and two goals to figure it out which was a little disappointing but in the end we figured it out.”
Russell started at right back but slipped inside after Perry Kitchen was noticeably uncomfortable playing inside. His poor clearance and turnover along with a howler from goalkeeper Joe Willis led to Bruin’s second goal. Bruin has scored eight career MLS goals, five of which have come against United including a hat trick in Houston a year ago.
“They thrive on balls going out wide, serving it in the box and making runs off of the ball. When you get guys going into new spots and you are looking at all these different looks and that is their strength; making you look a little confused,” said Russell. “Luckily our attack was on fire and the teams that are playing well can have bad days and still come out with a result.”
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