United pleased with effort in win over KC
WASHINGTON -- The team that beat the Kansas City Wizards 1-0 at RFK Stadium on Wednesday night kept things simple, moderated their attacking ambitions and defended resolutely, at times desperately. It gave up several golden opportunities, yet skated through with a bend-but-don't-break mentality that garnered three vital points -- even if it wasn't always easy on the eyes.Who were those men in black, and what have they done with D.C. United?"Sometimes you've got to grind out ugly wins," said United coach Tom Soehn after the victory that finally pushes his team into an MLS playoff spot after months spent on the outside looking in."Good teams can grind out ugly wins and today, that's what it was. There's been too many times when we've played well and come up short. So I give the guys credit for grinding one out."D.C. historically takes great pride in offering up flowing, attacking soccer for fans and neutrals alike. Wednesday night's display is not likely to be remembered as a classic display along those lines, but there was a distinct lack of remorse in the home locker room as the Black-and-Red savored the sort of result that has eluded them all too often on previous occasions this season."We got a little lucky. There were definitely some breakdowns," said D.C. right back Bryan Namoff. "It's nice to finally be on the winning side of some of these games, where the soccer is not going your way, but in the end you fight hard enough and pull out a win. That hasn't been the case this year. ... When it's all said and done, it's a result."That result might have played out very differently had the Wizards converted one of their many first-half opportunities. Kansas City snapped a seven-game winless streak with last weekend's 4-2 defeat of New England, and Peter Vermes' squad attacked D.C. from the outset at RFK, drawing five first-half saves from goalkeeper Josh Wicks along with myriad last-minute interventions from the home side's defense."We've been unlucky in some games this year and I feel like we were fortunate not to be down big at half," said Clyde Simms. "Second half, we adjusted some things to the way they were playing and I think it showed -- they didn't have a shot on goal the whole second half. So we felt like we were the better team. We knew we weren't at our best with the ball, but we tried to keep fighting."One frantic sequence in the 34th minute saw both Jimmy Conrad and Josh Wolff denied at the doorstep as no one in a white jersey could apply the final touch when it seemed easier to score than to miss."That was definitely a good opportunity -- I couldn't believe they didn't get it in there," admitted Simms, who spent about an hour as a holding midfielder before slotting into his new center back role for the match's close.Luciano Emilio made K.C. pay for their profligacy a few minutes later, popping up in the Wizards penalty box to sweep home the loose ball after Chris Pontius' diving header rattled the left post following a United corner kick. It marks the Brazilian striker's first goal in five weeks and his teammates will hope that it triggers one of his trademark scoring streaks as they try to build momentum in the season's final month."It's important for my confidence but it's more important for the team," said Emilio afterwards. "Those three points were very important for us. Now we will be having more confidence."The United attack might not have been firing on all cylinders, but the importance of moving up in the skin-tight MLS playoff race trumped any and all aesthetic concerns."They're good going forward, especially on counterattacks, so we had to be aware of that. But we have to find the balance of being able to go forward and being able to keep our defensive shape," said Devon McTavish, who performed well in a rare appearance at center back. "This late in the season, getting a shutout is a positive and if we can win every game 1-0, then we'll do that."