D.C. United this year have thrived under adversity. Their 3-2 win over the Columbus Crew on Saturday to clinch a playoff berth was no different.
In my match report, I looked at the comeback triumph, during which United twice equalized before Lewis Neal buried the stoppage-time winner. And in my follow-up story, I analyzed the club’s remarkable 5-0-1 run that has pushed United from sixth to second in the Eastern Conference following Dwayne De Rosario’s sprained knee ligament.
Here are a few notes from that dramatic Saturday evening:
— Ben Olsen isn’t losing faith in Lionard Pajoy. Although the striker did set up Nick DeLeon’s strike by forcing Andy Gruenebaum into a tough save, it overall was another tough day for Pajoy in the final third.
“It’s lacking,” Olsen said of Pajoy’s scoring touch. “He’ll tell you that. But the positives — the running he does for us, he causes fits — the final product hasn’t been there the last couple weeks, but he still gives us another dimension up there with his work rate. For sure, we’d like him to be a little more clinical. But when you don’t have a good day, when your touch is off, it’s important to do well with the other stuff.”
— This is a monkey of Chris Pontius‘ back, for sure. United’s longest-tenured player, Pontius had to endure three seasons of disappointment before finally being a part of a playoff team. When the final whistle blew, the fill-in D.C. captain shared a long embrace with Olsen.
“We’ve been through a lot,” Pontius said. “I got to play with Benny for a year and now this is my third year under him coaching. Those are a couple of rough years there. For us, we kept working hard. I think you’re seeing it pay off here.”
— Lastly, I leave you with Olsen’s celebration of Neal’s winner, which made RFK Stadium erupt in a way I hadn’t heard in a good half-decade.
“I almost fell over the bench,” he recalled. “I jumped on the bench and nobody else was on the bench, so the bench started falling over. But I saved it. I saved myself.”