If I had to pick one DC United player to drag DC United out of their rut, I would either choose Perry Kitchen or Chris Pontius – and Pontius' penalty kick goal may be the one to spark life back into the Black & Red. Pontius' goal sent RFK Stadium into euphoria despite the dwindling attendance – and while DC still have plenty to improve on, the entire DC United organization may now breathe a sigh of relief with their first win since March 9th.
Let's put it this way, the three points that DC United walked away with on Saturday is a step in the right direction. The past few months have been trying for the organization and after snapping their 13-game winless streak in the MLS, Ben Olsen expressed his emotions (via The Washington Post):
"It's been brutal for the staff and the players. It's been brutal for the organization. It's ben brutal for our gas. But what I am most proud of is we kept things moving forward. We had some bumps. [But no one around the team had] given up hope."
Pontius converted his spot kick in just the 11th minute of the match breaking his scoreless MLS season finally come to an end. Despite the lead, San Jose continued to press forward and asked a few questions of DC's goalkeeper Bill Hamid who once again seemed to save the day for the nations capitol. Mentally, the past two-and-a-half months must have been the most trying times of the DC United players careers; however, this is three points in the right direction. Overall, the mixture of young and old players aided in a positive turn.
DC United saw the most success in the middle of the park as John Thorrington carried the DC United attack as he spread the ball into wide positions, while Kitchen once again held down his defense duties as he sat right ahead of the back four. Thorrington played well while Dwayne De Rosario was on the bench and offered his veteran leadership in the midfield who seemed to wear the captains armband with more pride than anyone I've seen so far this season. It was through Thorrington's efforts that DC United were able to attain the breakthrough after-all. And as Thorrington aided in the midfield, center-back Ethan White suffered what appeared to be a concussion thus having to exit the match, eventually to be replaced by Conor Shanosky who made his second MLS career start. For only his second start, Shanosky was a solid defensive presence in front of Hamid and frustrated Shea Salinas, Adam Jahn and Alan Gordon on numerous occasions.
Now, the calls seem to be falling DC's way. With their second penalty kick in as many matches (in the first half, mind you) the tides are turning for the Black & Red. Yet, the three points did not come without a bit of nervous moments especially towards the end of the match as Jahn's shot about twenty minutes from time hit the post, followed by Alan Gordon's chipped effort in the 86th minute went just over the bar.
There are still plenty of improvements to be made, in particular the defense. Although Daniel Woolard has played fairly well when called upon this season, Salinas on numerous occasions snuck behind him. The lack of pace that Woolard displays and his inability to break down 1 v 1 is at times troublesome to watch, and overall is an area where Olsen must look towards to improve if any sort of run of good form is to be attained in the coming weeks.
With the win, DC United now improve to 2-11-3 which still places them in last place in the Eastern Conference; however, the positives outweigh the negatives this weekend. Moving forward, Thorrington without questions deserves the captains armband as his midfield display was exactly what United have been searching for. Even Pontius felt (via Yahoo Sports) "like I actually got into a groove this game" and much of this can be attributed to because of Thorrington's positive play.
Yes, some will say that reigning Major League Soccer MVP Chris Wondolowski was not in attendance (foot injury) but on the night, DC United's confidence was at an all-time high. While Wondo was not present neither was Steven Lenhart, but for DC fans – a win, is a win.
My DC United Man of the Match: Thorrington