WASHINGTON – Good teams win games even when they're not at their best. On Saturday evening's evidence, D.C. United – winner of three games in 2013 – may just be on its way to being a good team.
At RFK Stadium against the New York Red Bulls, DCU was out-shot 19 to 12, and out-possessed 57 to 42 percent. It mattered little for the visitors though, as Ben Olsen's men won 1-0 for their first back-to-back wins since 2012.
“It was a good old-fashioned grind out with a little luck on the side,” Olsen said after the game. “We've got a lot to work on and until we get to that point it's important to find ways to get points in this league and we found a way today.”
With the win, United evened its league mark at 2-2-1. It took until June 22 of last season for the team to record its second win. Perhaps even more impressively, DCU did so with key attackers Eddie Johnson and Nick DeLeon still without a goal in 2014, and Chris Pontius sidelined long-term with a left hamstring injury.
Johnson, the team's marquee offseason acquisition, was frustrated in front of goal again Saturday evening, but his coach was complimentary of his performance nonetheless.
“I like what Eddie's doing for us,” Olsen said. “I'm very pleased with how he's playing. Could he finish one or two? Yes of course, and he'll be tough on himself for those but I'm happy with some parts of us and I think there's a lot of room to grow with this team.”
Midfielder Davy Arnaud – who scored the game's only goal – echoed his coach's sentiment.
“You look at the way that Eddie has played the last two games, his role has been huge. I know he hasn't scored a goal yet, but the way he holds the ball up and relieves pressure and wins headers, he's doing all the little things that people maybe don't notice as much,” he said. “They think 'Oh if you don't score if you're a forward, you're not doing your job.' That's not the case, he's doing his job and then some. The goals are going to come for Eddie, there's no doubt about that.”
Johnson, who is fighting with a host of forwards for a World Cup spot, is confident he'll start to get going soon.
“It’s always frustrating, I came here to score goals,” the striker said. “If I wasn’t getting opportunities then it’d be more frustrating. The guys are starting to find me, my timing and understanding of when to make my run, when the guys get into position, it’s getting better and better every game. It’s just a matter of time.”
The prospect of an in-form Johnson and DeLeon coupled with the eventual return of Pontius must be a tantalizing one to DCU fans, who saw their team grind out a result in a way that was reminiscent of the squad's 2012 late-season run to the Eastern Conference final.
“You're not going to find any team that goes in week in and week out and puts on an unbelievable performance and just walks over teams. It's not going to happen,” Arnaud said. “Good teams, it's a cliché, but good teams do find a way to win games.”
The season is still young, but DCU is showing signs that in 2014, the results may come whether it puts in its best performance or not.