Onalfo's lineup changes yield first result for D.C.
Reporters looking for the positive psychological effects ofthe season’s first victory for D.C. United on Wednesday night did not have towait long – only about 15 minutes after the final whistle, in fact.
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“I never told you guys, but that’s actually how itwas going to be all along,” deadpanned D.C. coach Curt Onalfo at the start ofhis postgame press conference at RFK Stadium. "I said patience and perseverance, and my first win would beagainst my former employer. That’s a joke.”
For more than a month those press briefings have been a small,subtle form of torture for Onalfo, forcing him to field difficult andincreasingly critical questions after each loss in his team’s dispiriting 0-5start to the season. But Wednesday offered a welcome change of pace as theUnited boss was able to discuss a gratifying result, as well as a few bolddecisions that he made to create it.
Onalfo shook up the status quo either end of his lineupsheet, making a dramatic change in goal with veteran and sometime U.S.international Troy Perkins giving way to his 19-year-old understudy Bill Hamid,while striker Danny Allsopp, one of the club’s marquee offseason signings,earned only his third start of the season up top.
“For me it was, ‘We’re 0-5 and I feel like I’ve got to makesome changes,’” Onalfo explained afterwards.
Both moves paid rich dividends as Allsopp notched both D.C.goals and Hamid produced a five-save performance that belied his tender age andlimited experience. In fact, both men made history as Allsopp became the firstAustralian goal-scorer in MLS and Hamid broke Tim Howard’s record for theleague’s youngest goalkeeper to notch a win.
“I think it’s probably a relief for everyone here," Allsopp said. "We’ve hada difficult start and it’s good that we’ve got a win in front of our homefans. They’ve been through a lot with usas well, so I think everyone’s pretty pleased tonight and hopefully it’s thestart of more to come.
“Everyone’s been giving everything, and sometimes, it justdoesn’t work out the way you want," the Australian continued. "But everyone’s stuck together and we’vehopefully turned a corner tonight.”
Hamid has advanced from the United under-18 academy team toa starting role in the senior squad in less than a year, and the measuredmaturity required to make that journey was evident in his reaction toWednesday’s proceedings.
“For myself, I think I played well,” he said. “But as a teamit’s more important: We fought for all 93 minutes. At times, we’ve lapsed forlittle bits and portions of the games and it’s cost us breakdowns. But today weknew the task at hand and we fought for all 93 minutes.”
The importance of putting the club’s preference for flowing,attractive soccer aside in favor of a results-oriented approach was a major themein the run-up to the match against Kansas City, and United’s lineup and tacticsduly reflected this reality. Allsopp was paired with burly target man AdamCristman up front and their colleagues did not hesitate to serve searchingballs up towards the duo, confident that they would eagerly contest headers andremain hot on the heels of the Wizards defenders.
It rarely recalled the subtlety and finesse of historicBlack-and-Red sides, but it paid off as both of Allsopp’s strikes were keyed bymistakes in the KC back line. D.C. are likely to be put to use again in threedays’ time as they head to Pizza Hut Park for a weekend date with FC Dallas.
“I think there were moments in the game tonight where, whenwe actually put in the work, it allowed us to play nice soccer and pass theball and connect, and it felt more fluid,” said Cristman. “But I think we’refinding, at least in this league against the teams that we’re playing against,that’s not necessarily how you win games. You have to put in the work, it hasto be dicey and it’s not always pretty. At the end of the day we’re all comingin with knocks, tired and dead, but that’s what it takes to win games andthat’s what we’re going to keep doing.”