WASHINGTON, D.C. – D.C. United needed more than three games and over 287 minutes to score their first goal of the 2017 Major League Soccer season.
The second goal came just nine minutes later and was enough to propel the club to its first victory of the season.
Newcomer José Guillermo Ortiz and Argentine midfielder Luciano Acosta scored two first-half goals, which with goalkeeper Bill Hamid’s seven-save performance, helped push the black and red past their I-95 rivals, the Philadelphia Union, 2-1, in front of 14,560 fans at RFK Stadium on April 1.
“There were two things we wanted to get off our back,” Head Coach Ben Olsen said. “Obviously, one was scoring a goal and the second was getting a win. We crossed both of those off the list tonight.”
The scoreless drought dogged United (1-2-1) heading into the contest. Matters were only made worse when striker Patrick Mullins, who scored eight goals last season, was ruled out during the week with a hamstring injury.
Ortiz, a Costa Rican international brought in on loan during the offseason, filled in for Mullins and quickly made an impact in his first career start for the club.
A defensive turnover allowed United winger Lloyd Sam to recover a loose ball in Union territory, and he attempted a quick pass to a running Ortiz on the right side of the penalty area. The Costa Rican’s quick right-footed shot took two deflections off of Union defenders before the ball floated over Union goalkeeper Andre Blake for his first career MLS goal.
United continued to dominate possession and attacked the Union defense throughout the first half. Moments after the first goal, Ortiz attempted to chip the ball over the backline to find Acosta. However, Philadelphia defender Richie Marquez’s arm blocked the impending pass inside the penalty area, forcing referee Ricardo Salazar to call for a penalty.
Acosta, who was playing in his second game of the season and returning from an ankle injury, finished off the penalty kick to push United up 2-0.
Philadelphia (0-2-2) made two quick substitutions after halftime to help provide more of an attack, including adding striker C.J. Sapong. United’s backline, which saw the return of former captain Bobby Boswell, began to struggle with added pressure created by Sapong and midfielder Chris Pontius, forcing goalkeeper Hamid to make big saves to keep D.C.’s lead intact.
Hamid, a former DeMatha High School standout, made three consecutive saves within a 10-minute span to temper the Union attack.
“We didn’t do a good job of keeping the ball in the second half,” United defender Steve Birnbaum said. “They had it most of the time and were keeping us pinned back, but we defended the box well and had a seasoned backline. I thought we communicated well and stayed with the runners. Bill (Hamid) came up with some big saves, so that’s always good.”
In the 71st minute, as Hamid made another diving save off a Alejandro Bedoya shot, the rebound landed in front of a running Sapong, who smashed the ball into the net for the Union’s only goal of the game.
Philadelphia had a chance to tie the game with less than 10 minutes remaining as Olney native Oguchi Onyewu’s header beat Hamid. However, United midfielder Marcelo Sarvas cleared the shot away from the goal line to preserve the win.
The win puts United in ninth place in the 11-team Eastern Conference and will look to use the victory as motivation for their next home game on April 8 against New York City FC. Back on March 12, in the second game of the campaign, two goals by Spanish superstar David Villa led New York to a 4-0 thumping of United at Yankee Stadium.
“The other teams have special players and stuff like that, but we know we all have to bring our A-game every game to get a win,” United midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. “We're all on the same page, we know we didn't play well enough in the second half, but we'll celebrate the win.”