It was a case of close but no cigar for D.C. United in 2011. Up until the last six weeks of the season, a playoff spot looked like likely in the first full year of head coach Ben Olsen’s coaching career. But a six-game winless streak down the stretch to wrap up the season doomed the team’s postseason chances, and they finished seventh in the east with a slightly disappointing 9-13-12 record.
But there was plenty of good news for D.C. fans. Young and talented players like Perry Kitchen, Bill Hamid, Ethan White and Andy Najar all stepped up and played significant minutes in helping United bounce back from their woeful 2010 season.
United’s main man Dwayne De Rosario, acquired midseason from the New York Red Bulls, put on a scintillating first-half performance against Real Salt Lake on Sept. 24. The Canadian international scored a hat trick in the game’s first 35 minutes, while also setting the table for the game’s opening goal in a comprehensive 4-1 win. De Rosario’s signing turned D.C.’s fortunes around and they looked increasingly likely to make the playoffs, only to falter at the end of the year.
After his midseason acquisition, De Rosario left numerous quality tallies in his wake in his half-season with D.C. The pick of the lot was his second goal against the San Jose Earthquakes in July. DeRo started the move at the top of the 18-yard box with a no-look pass to Chris Pontius. He kept his run on goal and superbly re-directed a low return pass into the upper corner.
Bill Hamid in goal was becoming the hottest young goalkeeping talent in the US, and he travelled to the EPL to train with West Brom after the end of the season. He made several big saves and was tested throughout the year, but his one stop on Fredy Montero against the Seattle Sounders on May 4 was one of the 20-year-old’s best saves. With D.C. up 2-1, the young US international-to-be had to go into full stretch to get a hand to Montero’s sizzling blast from the top of the 18-yard box. Not only was it a top-drawer save, but United held on for the win.
After his acquisition on June 27, De Rosario scored 13 goals and had seven assists in a D.C. uniform, good enough to collect the first league MVP of his career. Also another player who had a massive impact after his arrival was Brandon McDonald. His signing brought some life to the defense, but De Rosario’s midseason pickup turned out to be the right move and D.C. ended up just outside the playoffs after a solid first year in charge for Olsen.