D.C. United shrugged off two underwhelming performances at home over the past week, going on the road Saturday to defeat the Colorado Rapids 3-2. It was a nervy second half, much in the vain of United's previous road game — a 2-1 win over Orlando City. But United held on and earned their seventh point on the road from three games this season with the win.
Ben Olsen rotated his starting lineup, moved away from his favored formation, and gave three different players their first start of the season. And then United fell behind early in the first half. Added up all together, that recipe seemed to indicate dropped points, but United responded with a three-goal outburst in an eight-minute stretch in the first half to take a lead that they would not relinquish.
The win put the Black-and-Red back atop the Eastern Conference standings and ended a two-game winless and scoreless streak. It was far from a perfect outing but might have been an indication that United have turned the corner in terms of getting results on the road.
Here's what stood out to FloFC from D.C. United's latest win:
United's Ability To Win On The Road Has Improved
The Black-and-Red haven't quite equaled last year's point total on the road, but they just about have after Saturday's win. In 17 games last year, United won one and tied seven for a grand total of just 10 points. With the win over the Rapids, United have already eclipsed last year's win total and already have seven points.
The second half, much like the second half against the Lions last month, showed that D.C. still need to improve on closing games out. They allowed too many chances, didn't create much on the other end of the field, and needed some timely saves from Bill Hamid to ensure they left with three points.
At the same time, United managed the win on short rest, playing in the altitude. Wayne Rooney was recovering from an illness and probably not at his best physically. The formation was different, and there were some unfamiliar faces in the starting lineup. None of that seemed to deter United, though, putting up three goals against a team that hasn't won yet in MLS this year.
There's still a long way to go, and plenty of room for improvement, but if United can continue to pick up wins and get to 20 to 25 points on the road this year, they will position themselves well for one of the top spots in the East.
Pines & Durkin Make A Point
Four homegrown players started on Saturday for the Black-and-Red: Hamid, Jalen Robinson, Donovan Pines, and Chris Durkin. Another in Griffin Yow was on the bench. There wouldn't have been many questions about what Hamid and Robinson could bring to the field, but Pines and Durkin were put in spots where they needed to contribute.
And both managed to do that in the win. Durkin, of course, scored go-ahead goal, the first goal of his career with the Black-and-Red. It was a great finish for a player who is mostly known for his ability to spray the ball around for his teammates instead of looking to shoot. Pines also got an assist for Luciano Acosta's equalizer, though his header might not have been exactly intended for his teammate.
But as usual, Durkin was solid in possession, completing 41 of his 51 passes. Pines only misplaced three passes of his own, while adding two blocks, two interceptions, seven clearances, and five recoveries. Both players had areas to improve in the game, but if United can get them time on the field and results at the same time, Olsen will be more than pleased.
Titi Rodriguez Is The Magic Man
It's worth talking about the three-man back line from this game, but we will do that later this week, as it's possible United will still need to use it this Sunday against New York City FC. Instead, we will finish off this piece by talking about United's other Argentinian magic man. First, Rodriguez had the assist for Durkin's goal, his second of the season. Durkin gets most of the credit for the goal for finding the space and lacing a shot past Tim Howard, but Titi did well to recognize the situation and get the ball to Durkin in a timely manner that let him go towards goal.
Then Rodriguez's goal, which stood as the winner, was just a thing of beauty. Take a look.
Look at how quickly Rodriguez pounces on the mistake from the Rapids. There's nobody in white around to help him, but that doesn't stop Rodriguez from steaming towards goal. By the time he gets into the box, he has no business scoring a goal. He's surrounded by three defenders who should have been able to dispossess the midfielder. Instead, Rodriguez is able to cut inside, and then deftly finish with his weaker foot.
Not quite as extravagant as his weak-footed finish against Real Salt Lake, but a fine finish to complete a brilliant run nonetheless. This version of Rodriguez can be one of the better attacking midfielders in the league, and cause headaches for defenders and keepers with his abilities on the ball.