When new arrival Chris Rolfe volleyed in a goal in stoppage time Saturday night, securing a 2-0 victory over the New England Revolution, D.C. United enjoyed a moment eight months in the making: For the first time since last summer, United had won an MLS regular season match.
Gifted an own goal by MLS’s top defender in 2013, steadied by a goalkeeper making his first league appearance in 31 / 2 years and boosted by Rolfe’s clincher, United ended a 15-game winless streak before 10,526 at RFK Stadium.
“It feels good for a lot of those guys, in particular the old guys,” Coach Ben Olsen said. “We get a demon off our back and we can continue to move forward now.”
United (1-1-2) continued to take small steps in its effort to return to competiveness after last year’s 3-24-7 fiasco. Since a 3-0 loss to Columbus in the opener, United has dropped a one-goal decision at Toronto, tied Chicago and defeated New England (1-3-1).
“Hopefully this is the start of a good little run,” said Davy Arnaud, who paired with Perry Kitchen to control central midfield much of the evening.
Andrew Dykstra started in goal in place of Bill Hamid, who returned from U.S. national team duty in Arizona with a sore foot. Dykstra, a graduate of Osbourn Park High and Virginia Commonwealth, was United’s third-choice keeper for two years before beating out Joe Willis for the No. 2 role this preseason.
Despite the long absence, Dykstra, 28, comes with experience: 17 starts for Chicago in 2010 and regular work the past two years on loan at third-division Charleston and Richmond.
“It dawned on me probably 20 minutes before kickoff” that he had not played in a league match in four seasons, Dykstra said with a laugh. He needed to make just one save.
His counterpart, Bobby Shuttleworth, was not under much duress either. But United went ahead on Jose Goncalves’s blunder in the 43rd minute.
Cristian Fernandez crossed from the end line — a dangerous but manageable situation in the six-yard box. United’s Eddie Johnson was two steps behind, no threat to challenge for the ball. Instead of pushing it wide, though, Goncalves drove a left-footed volley from four yards into the near corner.
Early in the second half, a Fernandez pass almost led to another goal. This time, though, he squared the ball directly to New England’s Teal Bunbury, who tagged an 18-yarder over the crossbar.
As the Revolution committed more players forward, United squandered several promising opportunities in the open field. With a lifeline, New England threatened to equalize in the 73rd minute when Diego Fagundez’s close-in bicycle kick spun wide.
Johnson, just back from the U.S. national team friendly against Mexico, missed two golden chances, including a breakaway. Although the prime offseason acquisition has yet to score, Olsen said he isn’t worried.
“I am actually encouraged by [the Johnson-Fabian Espindola] partnership they are forming. They are starting to understand each other. The timing, the sequences, the spacing is getting much better. Now the last part is to get those guys on the scoring sheet every week.”
Rolfe, who had entered in the 63rd minute, eased the tension in the waning moments, volleying Espindola’s gorgeous long ball off Shuttleworth and into the net.
“It will help me with my confidence,” Rolfe said, “and hopefully help these guys in their belief in me.”
United notes: Revolution Coach Jay Heaps was ejected in the 90th minute. . . . Hamid will undergo an MRI exam test Monday. . . . Charlie Davies, United’s leading scorer in 2011, made a 60th-minute entrance for the Revolution. . . . Steve Neumann, the No. 4 overall draft pick from Georgetown, played the last few minutes for New England. . . . Kyle Porter scored twice and D.C. teammate Michael Seaton, 17, had a goal on their loan assignments with Richmond, which defeated Pittsburgh, 3-1.