Since Audi Field has opened for business, D.C. United seems to have done the same.
United won a 2-0 decision over New England Revolution Sunday night that pushed the club further up the MLS Eastern Conference standings.
United (7-9-6) have not lost since July 25, going 4-0-1 in that time. It was their third win in eight days and first shutout win since April. They are also 5-1-0 at Audi Field, the new soccer-specific stadium in Buzzard Point.
Luciano Acosta’s goal in the 13th minute made the difference early, and Zoltan Stieber scored an insurance goal in the 89th. United played out the final 17 minutes of the match a man up after Revolution midfielder Scott Caldwell was shown a red card.
Bill Hamid made two saves and earned the shutout in his second match since returning to his old club.
After the match, coach Ben Olsen and players spoke with near unanimity about being prepared for a fight with New England (7-9-8).
“What I’m pleased with today is that we had to dig in and show our physical presence that this team really hasn’t dealt with in the greatest way over the last year and a half,” Olsen said. “That’s what (Revolution) do. They came here to fight. I thought we for the most part did very well matching a very physical team.”
“If you watch film which we did on New England, they like to bully teams. They like to fight,” Hamid said. “They throw punches, they have late tackles, they just scrap all over the field. We were prepared for it. They got a red card that gave us a little bit of an advantage, so we took advantage of it.”
Acosta said via a team translator that the game was “combative.”
“I think myself and Wayne, we got hit quite a couple times,” Acosta said. “But that gives freedom for other players to have some space and find the ball more.”
The Black and Red had the comfort of playing from ahead most of the match. Thirteen minutes in, Paul Arriola sent a low cross through the box to Acosta, who finished the play for his fifth goal of the season.
It was also Arriola’s eighth assist, second on the team only to Acosta. Arriola later had a scoring chance himself; in the 22nd minute, he charged a loose ball near the 18-yard line but placed his attempt wide right.
Wayne Rooney put in a good effort five minutes later. He dribbled up the left side of the box one-on-one and got his defender to stutter, but he missed his low, rolling shot wide of the far post.
Meanwhile, New England could not muster a fight in the first half, barely tallying more total shots (three) than yellow cards (two). Early in the second half, Revolution captain Andrew Farrell appeared to trip Yamil Asad in the box, but to the dismay of the D.C. sellout crowd of 20,198, no penalty was called.
Stieber subbed on for Arriola in the 60th minute. He was nearly the beneficiary of a fine bang-bang play in the box, as Acosta, Rooney and Moreno dealt quick passes to set Stieber up. But Stieber’s shot from the center of the box missed left.
Meanwhile, Caldwell was sent off for the Revolution in the 73rd by virtue of a second yellow card when he fouled Junior Moreno.
Rooney, a few minutes after getting his nose bloodied in a tussle with a New England player, broke free downfield in the 86th minute but missed his shot high. Just three minutes later, he was tripped just in front of the semicircle, but his free kick also barely missed the net.
But United would not be denied. Just following that play, Moreno fed Stieber a long ball upfield. Stieber drew Revolution keeper Matt Turner to the right, then threaded his goal between Turner and the near post.
“Confidence is high,” Rooney said. “It’s been a great week for us. We had a target to start the week and thankfully got nine points. We thought today, first half, we played some of the best football you’ll see in the league. The second half was probably a better second half because it was tougher. But we dug in … We’re delighted to get nine points.”
“I ask a lot of these guys, mentally and physically, whether it’s preparation or the minutes they put in,” Olsen said. “It was a long week for these guys and they dug in. At times there was some great soccer throughout the week.”
D.C. gets a break in the match schedule for a week and will return to the pitch with a visit to the New York Red Bulls next Sunday.
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