Chris Rolfe and D.C. United extended their closest rivals’ streak of futility with a 1-0 road win over the reeling Philadelphia Union in front of 18,522 fans at PPL Park on Saturday afternoon.
An early goal from Rolfe was all United needed to sink the Union, who are now winless in their last nine games, the longest such stretch in the franchise’s five-year history.
The goal from Rolfe was the 50th of the 31-year-old veteran’s career, making him the 38th player in MLS history to score 50 regular-season goals.
With the Union looking for a good start in a game Union manager John Hackworth labeled “as close as they come to a must-win game,” D.C. (4-3-2) struck first. In the sixth minute, Cristian Fernandez’s tough-angle shot ricocheted off Philly fullback Ray Gaddis and popped up to an unmarked Rolfe in the middle of the box.
Rolfe settled the ball off his chest and in one motion blasted a left-footed shot past Union goalie Zac MacMath, who appeared to be put off by Eddie Johnson and Lewis Neal as they stood near the goal line.
The Union (1-5-5) trailed most of the way from there, despite a wild scramble in front of United’s goal in the 64th minute. After a steal from Fabinho kickstarted a counter-attack, Andrew Wenger made a great turn but was stoned by Bill Hamid, who made another brilliant save on Conor Casey’s rebound attempt. Danny Cruz and Cristian Maidana then flung themselves at the ball but D.C. held strong to preserve their 1-0 lead.
After a mostly lifeless first half, the Union had other chances to break their scoring drought in the second half, with Austin Berry flying in toward the back post for a header that went high off of a 59th-minute corner kick and Fabinho blasting one that was punched away by Hamid in the 77th minute.
Hamid finished with four saves to post the shutout against the Union, who have been kept off the scoresheet in three of their last four games and haven’t had a player score from the run of play in their last five.
United nearly added to their lead in the 32nd minute when Eddie Johnson was sprung free on a through ball and chipped a clever finish over MacMath, but he was called offside on the play. Two minutes later, Fabian Espindola fired a shot just wide after a miscue from Berry, who was returning to the starting lineup at center back for the first time since April 12.
The Union didn’t direct a shot on goal in the first half and their best scoring chance probably came in the 17th minute when Amobi Okugo chested down a Cristian Maidana corner and fired a shot high. It was their third straight half at home without a shot on goal.
D.C. United returns to RFK, after two weeks on the road, to host the Montreal Impact on Saturday, May 17 at 7:00 p.m.
Goals: Chris Rolfe 6'
Disciplinary: Perry Kitchen 33', Chris Korb 67', Davy Arnaud 78'
DCU Lineups: Hamid; Fernandez, Parke, Boswell, Korb; Rolfe, Arnaud, Kitchen, Neal (Caskey 75'); Espindola (Silva 88'), Johnson (Doyle 84')
PHI Lineups: MacMath; Gaddis, Berry (Fernandez 83'), Okugo, Fabinho; Maidana, Carroll (Cruz HT), Edu, Nogueira; Casey (Le Toux 73'), Wenger