BY CLIFF STARKEY
WASHINGTON—They may have been missing the most expensive piece of their attack due to a suspension, but goals in either half by Chris Rolfe and Fabian Espindola left little doubt as to D.C. United’s attacking prowess, as they won in comfortable fashion, 2-0, against the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday night.
D.C. United enjoyed the vast majority of the ball all night. Espindola and Nick DeLeon were especially dangerous in attack, getting behind Houston’s defense again and again throughout the game.
DeLeon said that D.C. United knew what to expect—and what to exploit—before the game even began.
“We knew they only played two in the middle,” DeLeon said. “Our game plan was to come inside and force [Houston Dynamo] to work. It was just a lot of numbers for them to handle.”
D.C. United had practically all of the possession for the first 25 minutes. Despite Espindola and DeLeon causing havoc, all D.C. United had to show for their early dominance was a handful of poorly executed corners.
D.C. United finally found a way past Houston’s defense in the 29th minute, thanks to some quick thinking on a fairly routine throw in.
As Houston began to venture forward, an attempt to stretch play to Corey Ashe down the left side missed its mark. As Ashe attempted to get back into play—and Houston back from their forward positions—Davy Arnaud scooped the ball up and found a breaking Espindola with his throw, who had maneuvered his way past Jermaine Taylor. Espindola centered the ball to Rolfe, whose fake shot left Tally Hall helpless but to watch Rolfe’s real effort go into the net. Rolfe’s goal was his third of the season.
Rolfe was quick to praise his team’s defense as the key to the attack’s success.
“It was a good result for us,” Rolfe said. The most important thing was keeping the clean sheet. I thought the guys in the back did a great job, and Bill [Hamid] came up big for us as well.”
Houston came out of their half with more urgency after going down a goal, and Hamid made sure his team would go into halftime with a lead, as he parried a shot by Giles Barnes wide.
Houston started the second half looking to get back into the game, but strong play by Hamid and the rest of D.C. United’s defense continued to frustrate Houston’s attacking players.
D.C. United found breathing room in the 63rd minute, after fantastic one-on-one skill on a counter by Espindola put them up 2-0.
After being released into a one-on-one against Houston defender David Horst, Espindola’s stepovers confused both Horst and keeper Hall. Espindola’s quick shot after his show of flair found its way underneath both Houston players, and Espindola had his fifth goal of the season.
The Houston Dynamo left RFK stadium disappointed, especially considering their win over the Los Angeles Galaxy last week.
Dynamo captain Corey Ashe was not pleased with the result, but says that D.C. United deserved the win.
“They punished us for [our two mistakes],” Ashe said to SBI.com after the match. “They came out, were organized, and set the tone.”
D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen is happy with the result, but knows that international duty—as well as injuries—has taken its toll on Houston.
“I’m obviously pleased, but I think we have to be somewhat realistic,” Olsen said. “The energy level they brought—and they were obviously missing some key guys—I thought we took advantage of them on an off night.”
Even with the caveats, Olsen said the team’s performance was good throughout.
“Outside backs were aggressive, center backs dealt with [Houston’s] big boys very well, and [Hamid] made a save or two. All around a good night,” Olsen said.
D.C. United team captain agreed with his coach’s assessment of the game.
“It was a solid team performance.” Boswell said. “I think that’s why we were rewarded.”
D.C. United United were without striker Eddie Johnson, who was serving a one-game retroactive suspension for what MLS called a “reckless challenge” against Montreal Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins last weekend.
This weekend, D.C. United travel to Boston to play an impressive looking New England Revolution on Saturday. The Houston Dynamo will head across the country to play at San Jose on Sunday.