We’ll just have to work backwards to get through these thoughts on D.C. United’s dramatic 1-0 victory over New York to capture a place in the MLS Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2007.
*The raw emotion in rookie Nick DeLeon’s eyes after his goal was incredible. He couldn’t get his shirt off, and just started beating the D.C. United crest on his chest – in front of the diehard fans who’d made the trip to New York, many of them a second time in two days after Wednesday’s game was postponed.
“Those are good runs for forwards to make, those darting runs across,” DeLeon said. “[Russell] had a good, disguised ball, and I just put my head down and hit the ball. I wasn’t aiming anywhere.”
*Robbie Russell delivers in his first start since July. He said D.C. always expected to score on the counter, and that’s exactly what developed when Lionard Pajoy grabbed the ball off Markus Holgersson then switched fields. Russell saw the defense shift and spied the hole for DeLeon.
“I said I didn’t know he had an assist in him,” Chris Pontius said. “It’s a beautiful ball, and what a finish by Nicky, especially in the 88th minute. I think we always leave it late for the drama.”
Russell and Lewis Neal were both very solid in place of suspended Andy Najar and injured Chris Korb. While United may have lost a step in the offensive thrust from the back line, they gained in composure.
“I don’t know if anyone on our team necessarily had a great game,” United coach Ben Olsen said. “They all did their job, and they worked hard, and we weren’t a great team today. But I think Lewis and Robbie did very well.”
*Joe Willis has ice in his veins. The backup D.C. goalkeeper saw Bill Hamid get a red, he got his stuff, he got on the field. He watched one PK go by. He stoned Kenny Cooper the second time around.
“The thing about that is you don’t have a lot of time to think,” Willis said. “You kind of just have to get ready and get out there.”
*Willis and Olsen both had plenty of credit to give to Hamid, who was outstanding before the red card – a play that it could be argued he had to take the risk on. Especially since it worked.
“He played unbelievable tonight,” Willis said. “He made some unbelievable saves, kept us in it for so long. I thought he was unfortunate to get the red card, to be honest. I love seeing him make saves. As a goalie, I like seeing goalies do well. It just makes you feel good.”
*The crazy Mark Geiger Show makes another appearance. Maybe the penalty call was harsh, but the encroachment call was the right one – maybe Thierry Henry should’ve been taking the penalty, not running too early after it? How did Olsen feel about the second episode?
“We saw that once before against Philadelphia, ironically,” Olsen said about the referee. “I felt Geiger, it was a big call. It was the right call. But it was a big call. I thought he was good all night long. He controlled the game. He didn’t call a lot of silly stuff. He let the game go. It was going to be physical.”
*Hamid: “I personally had no idea Kenny Cooper wanted to go out for the Olympic trials. I think for diving. If you watch the replay, he jumped over me, but I have five words: they can’t hold us back. That is it. They can’t hold us back. That’s all I gotta say. Eastern Conference finals.”
*D.C. United should learn about Najar’s situation on Friday. He’s got an appeal scheduled with MLS regarding the ball tossing incident that landed him with a red card. Olsen expects him to miss at least on more match.
*Olsen said it felt better to win as a coach than it did as a player. Everyone paid tribute to the fans
“This organization has been through some tough years, and these fans have suffered,” Olsen said. “They were spoiled early, and we went through a drought. This gives them hope and excitement.”
*He’s also right that D.C. United didn’t play very well. It hasn’t mattered.
“We bailed another guy out,” Olsen said. “We bailed Bill out, and that’s kind of the M.O. of this team right now. They continue to do that, and when the chips are down, there’s a certain spirit about them. It has nothing to do with me. These guys have just come together by themselves. In particular, the absence of Dwayne [De Rosario], they really gelled, and they believed, and sometimes belief is enough.”
*We’ll save this one for last. What was Roy Miller doing taking the Red Bulls’ late free kick instead of Henry? What was Rafa Marquez doing getting a silly second yellow card? Why didn’t Henry take the penalty kick? So much about the Red Bulls just makes no sense. New York’s argument not to play on Wednesday was a rational one. But somehow they hurt themselves on the perfect pitch on Thursday.
Meanwhile, little old D.C. United is two games away from hosting MLS Cup – which they had fully intended to do when it was last at RFK Stadium in 2007.
“Look, I wish I could tell you I sprinkled a little bit of this and I sprinkled a little of that and they became this well-oiled, gelled, spirited team,” Olsen said. “But it’s a good group. It’s a group of good guys that are willing to fight and back each other up, and they’re selfless. That as a base is very positive. We’ve had a little luck along the way, but who hasn’t? You need that, and I just think we’ve got some guys with real character. You start to add enough guys up with character, and things tend to go right for them.”