D.C. United continued its push back into the playoff picture, as they defeated the New England Revolution, 2-1, Sept. 15 at RFK Stadium.
With six games left in the regular season, the team was still trying to cope with the season-ending knee injury to captain Dwayne De Rosario, who was having a season to remember. However, this was a night to remember.
Before kickoff, the team inducted current head coach and former player Ben Olsen into the Hall of Tradition. Olsen donned the red and black of D.C. United from 1998 to 2009.
Once the game started, it was clear there was no love lost between the two teams. Referee Fotis Bazakos kept the whistle close as he cautioned players often and handed out four yellow cards on the night. It was a miracle both teams ended the game with all players still on the pitch.
The first half was back and forth, with both teams creating chances but struggling to find the back of the net. Just as United (13-10-5, 44 points) started to take control of the game, New England (7-15-7, 28 points) converted one of its chances when Kelyn Rowe put the Revolution up 1-0 in the 29th minute.
Behind a man-of-the-match performance from newly promoted captain Chris Pontius, D.C. United responded with the equalizer three minutes later after a brilliant assist from Branko Boskovic found Pontius for the score.
United will be expecting more goals from Pontius well into the future, as the club signed the 25-year-old to a new long-term contract Sept. 14.
Even though both sides were aggressive and created decent chances in the second half, United looked like the better side. In the 63rd minute, Pontius found substitute Lewis Neal, and a brilliant shot from Neal put United up 2-1.
Neal had come in to replace Boskovic, who impressed while on the field but was not fit for 90 minutes of play.
With about ten minutes to go, New England started to pick up the pace and tried to make a late charge with its playoff hopes hanging in the balance. It was unsuccessful, thanks in large part to two amazing saves from United goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
Despite the win, Olsen knows the team’s play must improve down the stretch.
“We are going to have to do much better than that going forward if we’re going to reach our goal,” Olsen said.
The win for United moved the team up to the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, with the Columbus Crew losing 3-1 to the second-place New York Red Bulls.
With the loss, New England has been eliminated from playoff contention.
“We have a couple of games coming up that we should do well in, but it‘s going to take a much better performance than this,” Olsen said.
United will look to improve its play when it takes on the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park Sept. 20.
Correction: A teaser for this story, not written by the bylined author, previously stated that D.C. United earned a spot in the playoffs with its recent win over the New England Revolution. Instead, D.C. United has moved closer to clinching a spot in the playoffs but has not gained a spot yet.