It’s been two or so years since Branko Boskovic could remember scoring a goal with his head and he drew a blank when trying to recall the last time he touched the twine with a diving header. Actually, he barely remembered what it felt like to score at all.
But he met all of those criteria for the only goal of the match, and his first ever MLS goal in 39 appearances as DC United held on for a 1-0 win over Chivas USA on a wonderfully cool night at RFK Stadium.
After openly expressing frustration about his inconsistent playing time and being constantly removed in or around the 60th minute of most matches in which he has played, it was perhaps ironic that he not only came on around that time and that the goal followed shortly thereafter.
“He’s been great this week, he really has…to me, it’s just a guy who wants to be on the field and wants to win,” said United coach Ben Olsen. “He’s committed, even though I’m sure he disagrees with me at times, he’s committed to the guys out there and he’s committed to this organization and he always has been so I’m happy he was the hero today.”
Lionard Pujoy beat his man on the right flank and sent a low ball toward the near corner of the 6-yard box. Boskovic beat Danny Califf to the spot, extending himself low and hard to nod the ball just inside the back post passed the fully extended Dan Kennedy in the 64th minute.
“I don’t remember the last time I scored a goal. I forget how this looks,” said a smiling Boskovic, who was looking for a long slide to celebrate his first regular season goal but that was cut short by the choppy RFK Stadium turf. “I was supposed to go on my knees but the field is not so good and I stayed there and now my knee hurts and I have a lot of scratches but it’s okay.”
With the absence of Dwayne De Rosario, Boskovic is one of the few players on the roster that can bring a calmness and composure to the team, and they needed it tonight.
“I think every game is a different role for him; sometimes we’ve started him sometime’s they’ve brought him in as a sub and I thought he did well calming us down tonight just getting us to move the ball from side to side which eventually opened the game up.”
United (15-10-5, 50 points) extended their home unbeaten streak to a staggering 15 and jumped into a tie with New York for third place in the Eastern Conference. They took all nine available points in three matches in the last eight days, a feat they had not done since August 2007 when they defeated Columbus, New York and Toronto in just seven days.
The lowest scoring team in the league tested United’s patience for the majority of the night, controlling the ball for nearly two-thirds of the match. Chivas has just 21 goals on the season as a team while San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski has 22 on his own to lead the league.
“They sat with three in the middle and (Peter) Vagenas kind of came back and was getting the ball off the center backs,” said midfielder Chris Pontius. “But at that point you just want to keep them in front (of you) and as long as they aren’t getting in behind, which they weren’t too dangerous with their possession, I don’t mind it too much.”
Chivas could not muster even an attempt at goal until Shalrie Joseph cut one loose from 32-yards out that took a deflection and nearly snuck inside the right post in the 36th minute.
Miller Bolanos and Casey Townsend broke in 2-on-1 against Brandon McDonald in the 55th but Dejan Jakovic got just enough of the Bolanos pass to disrupt Townsend’s unmarked touch near the corner 6-yard box.
“We are winning games but it hasn’t been where we are putting teams away” said Pontius. “We can play a lot better and we’ve gotten away with taking one or two plays off this week, myself included. I think we can be a lot cleaner as a team with possession and throughout the game.”
United’s possession disadvantage however was primarily self-inflicted. They struggled with stringing multiple passes in the attacking third and they rarely connected cleanly with that final ball for most of the night. United was by far the aggressor however and maintained width exquisitely, primarily with their outside backs, especially Andy Najar, making penetrating runs down the flanks on a routine basis.
“I think the guys have all raised their game a little bit. We’ve rode our luck at times too, we could have had ties or losses in all three of these games, they weren’t overwhelmingly dominating. I think that’s the one overwhelming theme with this group right now, they’re grinding and they’re surviving.”
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