Regardless of standing position there are no easy games in Major League Soccer. D.C. United was reminded of the challenges of MLS Sunday night after a 1-0 road loss to the Philadelphia Union to end the Black and Red’s eight game unbeaten streak.
The Union had been winless in five consecutive games and had gone 296 minutes without a goal before homegrown product and second half substitute Zak Pfeffer broke through in the third minute of stoppage to secure the win with his second goal of the year. It was a thrilling end to a day that started with Union fans protesting the current state of the club with only two wins from 12 matches.
For United it was a disappointing end of a stretch of 270 minutes of soccer in nine days that had started with a tie against Sporting Kansas City and a win over Orlando City. To be sure United was saddled with a heavy schedule, but believed it had the depth and quality to prevail. In the end the Union was the better side on the night.
Life in MLS is dealing with parity and therefore results that might seem surprising. United’s stumble in Philadelphia was unexpected. Also Sunday Orlando ambushed the LA Galaxy at home 4-0 and it is doubtful many predicted Montreal offensive explosion Saturday in a 4-1 win over Real Salt Lake.
- Bill Hamid is a stud. While United struggled to put true bite in its attack, Hamid held the fort in goal and finished with five saves. Hamid leads MLS in save percentage and kept the game scoreless when he robbed Vincent Nogueira in the 32nd minute and denied Conor Casey from point-blank range just before halftime. In the second half Hamid also thwarted a chance by Sebastien Le Toux in the 73rd minute.
- Successful debut. After being part of the 18-man roster for the 2-1 win over Orlando City, Markus Halsti finally made his MLS debut with DC United. The Finnish international, sidelined by a knee injury in preseason, started and played 80 minutes Sunday in the center of midfield next to Perry Kitchen. Halsti was composed on the ball and then excellent in his distribution especially with quick passes to the flank.
- It’s a start. First round draft pick Miguel Aguilar made his first career start with United on the left side of midfield and played 65 minutes. In the words of head coach Ben Olsen, “Aquilar had trouble finding the game, but when he did he had some good moments. He’s still going to be a good player but he’s young.” Aguilar hit the post with an effort in the 50th minute.
- Of concern. Luis Silva came on in the second half as a substitute, but did not finish the game because of what appeared to be a hamstring injury. Silva’s exit reduced United to ten men. Silva’s start to the season was delayed because of a hamstring injury, but he said after the game he didn’t believe the injury suffered on Sunday was as bad.