There was a sense of optimism that filled RFK Stadium on Sunday before kickoff as the D.C. United faithful unveiled an elaborate display reading, “They can’t hold us back — we are United.” For the team with the best home record in MLS, it sure seemed like there was more than enough energy to fuel a two-goal victory.
But in reality, it just wasn’t going to happen. Think about it: United started this Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final without the players who led the team this year in goals (Chris Pontius), assists (Dwayne De Rosario) and minutes (Brandon McDonald). Of those three, only a rusty De Rosario made an appearance. And that goes without mentioning the absent flair of suspended right back Andy Najar.
In my match report from RFK, I take a look at the obstacles United faced and how the hill ended up being just too steep to climb.
Here are some more notes and observations on United’s 1-1 draw with Houston, which put the Dynamo through 4-2 on aggregate:
— Branko Boskovic played his best game in a United uniform. And it wasn’t just his beautiful run and finish late to cut the deficit — the playmaker was smooth on the ball and really was D.C.’s only reliable source of attacking inspiration. Coach Ben Olsen after the game said Boskovic’s future is up in the air, but considering his late-season surge, I think it’s safe to say the club will welcome him back if he doesn’t pursue a move elsewhere. (For the record, he signed a new deal in June and has said he is under contract through next season.)
— Going into the offseason, United still need to find that No. 9. Lionard Pajoy is high on energy but low on finishing prowess. Maicon Santos‘ final goal of the season came in May. And while Olsen praised Hamdi Salihi on Sunday, saying he just needed more playing time to get his scoring touch going, it’s hard to imagine the underachieving DP staying (at his current salary, at least). Stay tuned.
— This run brought back a lot of local enthusiasm for this club. Coming off a regular season with historically poor attendance, United drew a raucous standing-room-only crowd of 20,015 for Sunday’s second leg. The team also has received increased play from the local media. All of this, of course, can only help the team as it continues pursue a new stadium arrangement in the District.