First three-game win streak since 2008 has D.C. in first place
D.C. United 3, Revolution 2
The RFK Stadium crowds are smaller now. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
A product of the frustrations off the field, due to failures to secure a new stadium, and on the field, where the team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2007, D.C. United doesn’t draw at home the way it did when it won an MLS Cup in 2004 and had the league’s best record in 2006 and 2007.
But the roar at the final whistle from the 14,627 in attendance on Saturday was loud, deliberate and reminiscent of United’s best days.
A salute for more than just a 3-2 win over the New England Revolution after a two-goal lead had been relinquished, it acknowledged the franchise’s return to first place in the Eastern Conference this late in the season for the first time since 2009. It heralded United’s first three-game winning streak since 2008. It provided the backdrop for a team that, while it has the next three weeks off from league play, expects to be in title contention when the marathon MLS season concludes in the fall.
“It’s unbelievable,” D.C. midfielder Branko Boskovic said. “After my two seasons here and every time was up and down. Now, first time we look a real team, a team who can win the playoffs. It’s still early, but we have good group, atmosphere and everything, what we need to continue to win.”
It came as no coincidence that the streak was completed with Boskovic’s third start in a row after he’d done so just twice in United’s first 12 games, nor that it was finished off by the luxury of having the team’s leading scorer, Maicon Santos, come off the bench for the game-winner.
Same as he’d done the week before against Toronto for his first career assist, Boskovic delivered pinpoint service on a free kick to open the scoring in the 15th minute.
Setting up on his left foot from the bottom of the center circle, Boskovic powered a long, curling ball into the box, where Brandon McDonald, with his back to goal, flicked a header into the upper right corner for his first goal of the year.
Boskovic was instrumental in D.C.’s second goal as well. After the Montenegrin’s stoppage time corner kick was headed back across goal by Dwayne De Rosario and a deflection, it fell to Dejan Jakovic, who had time to settle and slot the ball home his first career MLS goal for a 2-0 halftime lead.
“I think you gotta give all the credit to Branko,” McDonald said. “The games that he’s been in so far and came in and done what he’s done, his services have been unbelievable.”
The Revolution (4-7-1) could’ve hung their heads after the break. Instead, they capitalized right way on United players that looked weighted down by the Memorial Day weekend heat and exhausted from their sixth game in 24 days.
In the 48th minute, Benny Feilhaber was left alone to unleash a blast from distance. Hamid leaned to his right for the save, but the rebound fell to an unmarked Saer Sene, who pushed it past the D.C. keeper and inside of the left post.
Two minutes later, New England defender A.J. Soares out jumped his marker to nod a corner kick inside the right post and tie the score.
United coach Ben Olsen responded by turning to Santos in the 57th minute, pulling Boskovic and moving De Rosario into the center of the midfield.
“It was more a product of I thought we needed to get a hold of the ball a little bit, and I’m looking to get Maicon in the game for the reason that we saw,” Olsen said.
It took four minutes for Santos to combine on a give-and-go with De Rosario and put United (8-4-3) back in front.
At the other end of the field, goalkeeper Bill Hamid stymied Sene’s first-half breakaway with a hockey-style kick save off the inside of his right leg. In the second half, he denied Kelyn Rowe’s dipping attempt in the 89th minute and a point-blank header in the 90th to secure the victory.
“Throughout the week, we’ve been talking about it, ‘First place, first place,’” Hamid said. “We want to set ourselves up and get as many points as possible, and we did.”
When the whistle sounded, De Rosario dropped his head and put his hands to his knees but the celebrating fans showed that the RFK stands are still capable of bouncing like they’ve done so many times before.
Olsen wouldn’t quite let himself enjoy it.
“When you’re in this, it’s tough to pat yourself on the back,” he said. “I want more points, and I want to do big things, and I want guys to experience big things. I know that if we put performances like this too often, we won’t be doing that… This is positive stuff, and I’m not downplaying that one bit. I’m just negative a little bit, feeling unfulfilled at that game. That’s a nice luxury to be unfulfilled with three points.”