Seemingly out of ideas and almost out of time, D.C. United needed a change in order to break through against an inspired Philadelphia Union squad playing its first game since the dismissal of coach Peter Nowak during the week.
Just six minutes after coming into the game, substitute Branko Boskovic provided a moment of brilliance as his 78th minute free kick found its way past a host of Union defenders before teammate Chris Pontius easily tapped home the game winner in a hard fought 1-0 win before 18,876 at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.
“Branko [Boskovic] had an unbelievable free kick,” coach Ben Olsen told the club’s website. “I was happy that Chris [Pontius] was able to get the goal.”
With the win, D.C. United (9-4-3, 30 points) remained alone atop the Eastern Conference standings and avenged a 2-1 loss to their I-95 rivals in the fourth-round of U.S. Open Cup just eleven days ago at the Maryland Soccerplex.
“They are at home and are buzzing, we have to get these results,” Olsen said after his team equaled its longest league winning streak since 2008. “They are key to the season.”
In order to get the positive result United had to withstand an energetic Union performance under the direction of interim coach John Hackworth. Despite hanging towards the bottom of the standings for much of the season, the Union (2-8-2, 8 points) were able to dominate possession and, as a result, put seven more shots (10-3) on frame than the visitors.
Philadelphia’s best chance to equalize came in the 85th minute when Carlos Valdes free header was swallowed up by Hamid on the goal line. It would have been a big moment not just for the Union but for the central defender as it was a Valdes foul on Pontius, which resulted in a yellow card, that set up United’s game-winning free kick from Boskovic.
“It is very important to get these results on the road,” Hamid said about the club’s third road win of the season just before the halfway mark.
“We want to stay on top of the East, so we need to get these results.”
The 21-year old goalkeeper, who recorded his third shut out of the season in seven starts, wants to stay on top not just for himself and his teammates, but for the loyal fans that are patiently waiting for the club’s first playoff appearance since 2007.
“The fans care, they are passionate, they want to see a D.C. United that is having success,” Hamid said about an estimated 500 traveling supporters that made the trek up north on Saturday night.
“They have had a lot of success in the past and want it to continue.”
United Notes – After 16 games United has equaled the most wins in a season since 2008 when the Black-and-Red notched 11 victories. Pontius now sits on six goals, just one short of tying a career-high that he set last season. Defender Ethan White, who was loaned out for the weekend, went 90 minutes for the Richmond Kickers in a 2-1 loss away to Wilmington on Friday night.
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