After going eight months without a win, D.C. United has won two in a row for the first time since 2012, with a 1-0 win over the rival Red Bulls vaulting United into fourth in the Eastern Conference. Converting a corner kick in the fourth minute, Ben Olsen’s team ran its record to 2-2-1, moving within one win of its entire total for the 2013 season.
The goal came off the match’s first real chance, with D.C. executing one of the most common corner kicks drawn up. Off a short corner from Fabian Espindola, Bobby Boswell beat Roy Miller to flick a ball far post, where Eric Alexander had lost Davy Arnaud. The veteran’s diving header from beyond the upright left Luis Robles with little chance to prevent one of the most straight forward of openers, giving D.C. a lead it’d carry to the final whistle.
All of a sudden, those “#sadstats” people were tweeting after United’s 0-2-0 start have dried up, with the current reality looking far less gloomy:
- With two wins, D.C. United have as many victories as last year’s MLS Cup finalists (Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake) and more than the two teams that finished the 2013 regular season on top of the conferences (New York, Portland).
- The team’s five goals are as many as Sporting Kansas City, Toronto FC, and the LA Galaxy.
- D.C.’s -1 goal difference is better than New York (-4) or Portland (-3).
For New York, on the other hand, the excuses have started to run out. While the team was still without Tim Cahill, Thierry Henry and Jámison Olave were back after sitting out last week’s trip to Montréal. With those stars back, the Red Bulls may have actually played better than they did in the 2-2 draw at Olympic Stadium, though the result was worse. After falling to 0-2-4 on the season, only the Impact sit between the Supporters’ Shield holders and last place in the Eastern Conference.
Given how much tinkering Mike Petke’s already done, it’s unclear what else he could try. At some point, all that’s left to do is wait for Tim Cahill to get healthy, urge his team to play better, and hope the age we’re seeing on his squad is just the product of a slow start.
But he’s probably doing all of those things already, yet here we are. Though six games, New York’s team looks flawed in a way tactics, inspiration, and preparation can’t address. When you watch a Red Bulls game, you don’t sit there and think, “Wow, Petke should be doing better.” Instead, it’s “this team just isn’t that good.”
Maybe they’ll snap out of it, but having lost to a D.C. United team that didn’t exactly show a new, more dangerous side, it’s hard to see New York making a quick turnaround. The lack of quality in the middle along with an aging Henry means there’s only so much this team can do.
Maybe there’s another side we’re not seeing. Or maybe the Red Bulls front office need to try harder to address the problems it carried into the offseason. It looks like Petke needs help.