D.C. United forward Eddie Johnson showed little emotion as he approached his penalty kick in the first half of Sunday night’s match against Chivas USA. He just stared straight ahead at his foe, goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, as if he were playing a mind game. The kick unfolded in slow motion. Johnson didn’t immediately motion toward the ball after the official blew the whistle.
Instead, he started pumping his feet and moved toward the ball an inch at a time. He finally stutter-stepped into the ball and unloaded a rocket into the top right corner of the net, and after the goal he neatly trotted back to midfield without a show of celebration.
“I really tried to wait until the last minute. . . . I was trying to put some pace on it and go the opposite way. [Kennedy] did a real good job of holding his spot and making it difficult for me,” Johnson said after the game with a smile.
It was a display of pure confidence from Johnson, a player who carries himself with ease, as if he’s the most dangerous player every time he touches the field. It was his second penalty kick goal in as many games, and his approach seemed to spread across the D.C. United lineup in a 3-1 win at RFK Stadium.
Perry Kitchen and Luis Silva each added second-half goals for United (11-5-4), which snapped a three-game home winless streak and stayed within striking distance of first place in the Eastern Conference standings.
“The early goal was big. . . . Once we get the PK, they had to open up,” United Coach Ben Olsen said. “I thought Eddie was fantastic today.”
Kitchen’s goal in the 59th minute came after a long service was dropped into the box for Johnson, who headed the ball back out to set up Kitchen’s drive into the right pocket. It was a fitting assist for Johnson, who seemed to glide in and out of scoring situations.
He could’ve easily finished with three goals; he acrobatically settled a service in front of the opponent’s net early in the first half but made two moves and narrowly missed out on a shot. He floated behind the defense in the 42nd minute and anticipated a precise cross from defender Chris Korb, using the type of footwork that set up his penalty kick goal to send a header toward the net. It clanked off the crossbar. Johnson calmly returned downfield, a demeanor that suggested he would get the next one.
Just three weeks ago, Olsen had to answer questions about his team’s offensive productivity with star Fabian Espindola out of the lineup with a knee injury, which preceded a shutout loss to Seattle at home. Espindola is expected back within the coming weeks, but that fact was an afterthought against a Chivas USA team that had won four straight entering the match. United has scored seven goals in four games since Espindola went down June 11.
“The guys in front of me, man, it was just very crisp. It was very lively. From the first second we jumped on them,” United goalkeeper Bill Hamid said.
Silva was certainly animated after he scored his fifth goal in five games, taking a through ball in the 70th minute and beating Kennedy near the far post to make it 3-0. Chivas USA star Erick Torres, who entered the night with 13 goals, beat Hamid on a penalty kick in the 84th minute — but by that point it was an inconsequential score.
It was a special match for Hamid, who was named to the MLS all-star team Saturday and made his 100th league appearance Sunday. At only 23, both are notable accomplishments, and Olsen said after the win he hopes Hamid will play for the U.S. national team and appear in a World Cup in the future.
Johnson said Hamid has “big dreams” and that the two players are similar in many ways. It has been a trying summer for Johnson, who was a surprise snub from the U.S. team for the World Cup and who has said he is still working to develop partnerships with his United teammates.
“We all have individual goals, and clearly one of mine was to go to the World Cup. You got one, two, three, four, five games without scoring, and you start to put a lot more pressure on yourself,” Johnson said. “Once that World Cup whole thing was behind me, I can clearly focus on here and my teammates.”