So much history for such a young club. The Union have never won three games in a row, they have never recorded a win with Kleberson in the starting line-up. A loss would virtually assure that DC United becomes the worst team in the entire history of Major League Soccer. The Union's playoff chances were not assured, but would have been greatly enhanced by a win against arguably the worst team in MLS...ever.
The fates did not oblige the Union at RFK. It seemed an odd night straight from the start. The Union's assist leader, Sebastien LeToux was the starting right back for this match due to the suspensions of Shaenon Williams and Fabinho. Earlier in the week at the weekly press conference, Hackworth mentioned the right back candidates as Matt Kassel, Chris Albright and mentioned the he and LeToux were joking about the possibility because the Frenchman started his career as a right back. It turned out that the joke was on Hackworth, LeToux started at right back, and was immediately singled out and attacked for the next 15 minutes until he was subbed out for Kassel due to his plantar fasciitis. To be fair, Kassel did a serviceable job for the remainder of the time he was on the field. the former Red Bull eventually made way for goalscorer Jack McInerney in the 73rd minute.
LeToux's reassignment to right back was not the only surprise of the evening. The Union lined up with what looked to be a defensive minded five man midfield with Conor Casey as the lone front man and Jack McInerney on the bench. Keon Daniel made his return, nominally on the left and last match's hero Kleberson was handed a rare start.
DC United had a clear game plan from the start. They targeted LeToux as the weak defensive link and they were not wrong. Pontius slipped a few crosses past LeToux early on. The Union looked a bit shell shocked until 36th minute when Nick DeLeon dropped the big one on them. DeLeon hit a very well placed 30 yard missile in to the top left corner to simultaneously put DC ahead and make it twice as hard for the Union to make the playoffs.
DC simply outplayed the union for large parts of this game. All credit to Ben Olsen and the likes of Chris Pontius for getting a team with very little to play for to not only show up but are also to give a serious challenge. Their possession and penetration were creating problems for the Union, and they were not afraid to take a speculative shot on goal from distance in poor weather conditions. The Union on the other hand looked listless and uninspiredapart from the always frantic Danny Cruz. The Union completely deflated after the DeLeon strike and the senior men on the field seemingly could not find a way to motivate the team.
Assistant coach Rob Vartughian stated the obvious to Heather Mitts during the second half sideline interview:
"We weren't good enough in the first half"
The second half kicked off and outside of the two goals, neither team was exactly a joy to behold. DC definitely had the better chances and Zac MacMath did his best to keep the Union in a good position to win. The Union midfield held the ball in their own half well but readily turned it over while attempting to attack. The majority of attacks started and ended with Danny Cruz.
The biggest news out of tonight's match is that Jack McInerney finally broke his duck. He scored a header from a Kleberson cross. The goal was not exactly beautiful and the finish was less than sublime, but it happened...finally.
This result was not what the Union wanted but it was the result they played for. Again Hackworth played not to lose as opposed to win. The Union now look to face a wounded Montreal without the weight of history to play against and possibly the biggest stakes in the franchises history