Ben Olsen has been a party to dozens and dozens of D.C. United victories at RFK Stadium over the past decade or so,but he’ll probably appreciate Sunday’s 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union a good deal more than most of them.
The occasion itself, a late-summer meeting between two teams at the bottom of the standings, might pale in comparison to the man-of-the-match performances and MLS Cup wins of his playing career, but it marks Olsen’s first-ever victory as a head coach and offers priceless relief to his long-suffering team.
For just the second time all year, an opposing side made the first telling mistake at RFK, as Aussie striker Danny Allsopp pounced on Danny Califf’s stumble in the 22nd minute to give DC a rare early lead and from there on, just about every break went United’s way.
“We’ve had a lot of those moments this year that didn’t go for us, but this one worked out,” said Olsen. “I told the guys afterwards, it’s been such a long, hard season – it’s nice to be rewarded sometimes in a year that we’ve had very few moments of joy, but to remember what it took. And it took 11 guys.
“We have had games where it’s been nine or 10 [guys], but in this league, unfortunately, it takes 11 guys all doing their part. I think you saw that today.”
Philadelphia broke down DC on a number of occasions after Allsopp’s opener, but were unable to capitalize before hard-working striker Pablo Hernandez victimized Philadelphia rookie Kyle Nakazawa to key Allsopp’s game-clinching second in conjunction with Andy Najar, who delivered another incisive display along the DC right flank.
“It's always hard to chase games,” said Allsopp. “[Scoring early] takes a bit of the pressure off. When other teams are up they recover a lot easier, and I thought it was the reverse today. We needed another goal in the second half and we got it at a good time.”
Allsopp has often cut a frustrated figure in his first MLS season, but on Sunday he worked doggedly on both sides of the ball and was well-placed to exploit what the Union defense surrendered. United’s recent performances have cried out for a composed finisher in front of goal and afterwards the burly Aussie used the word which surely summed up his entire team’s outlook after their miserable midsummer slump.
“It's just a relief,” said Allsopp. “We are just going to try and enjoy it for a day or two.”
The experienced striker’s brace will likely keep him on Olsen’s team sheet as the Black-and-Red prepare for an important stretch next week. United travel to California to face Chivas USA over the weekend, then host Columbus in a US Open Cup semifinal at RFK on Wednesday before meeting the Crew in league play on Sept. 4.
“Now we can breathe for a day and then get back at it,” said Olsen. “I think these guys hopefully want some more of that.”