Return matches are always the most difficult. Rust and match fitness are always an issue and of course there are the butterflies. While many players would consider just having a consistent first match a success, every once in a while they can pull off something special. On Friday night D.C. United forward Luis Silva did just that by hitting a cracking free kick in injury time to lift United over Orlando S.C. 1-0.
In the 91st minute, Silva hit a low bending shot past Orlando City goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts to give United the advantage. Silva, who entered the match in the 75th minute, had been out of action since October with an array of hamstring issues.
More from D.C. United
- Ruan Teixeira: A Remarkable Rise in the MLS and the European Dream
- Bruce Arena and the Quest for Rebirth at DC United: A Risky Bet?
- Wayne Rooney Leaves DC United: Closing a Chapter and Beginning Anew
- The Separation of Wayne Rooney and DC United: The End of an Era
- Wayne Rooney’s Crossroads at DC United: Between Pressure and Uncertainty
You can see the goal below. Perhaps what is most interesting is that D.C. United forward Chris Pontius lined up along with Silva to take the free kick. Although one might have expected to take the kick (given his skills as a long-distance shooter and his standing with the club,) it was Silva who took the kick. After the match Pontius told
that “I didn’t even think of taking that kick. That was Luis all the way.”
Although Silva should obviously be given the credit for winning the match, D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid was without question the man of the match. Hamid helped keep together a United defense that were under immense pressure from Orlando City for the entire match. Without starting center-back Steve Birnbaum (who is out for 4-6 weeks with a sprained ankle) the United back four lacked the cohesion that made them a dominant force last season.
Orlando City midfielder Kaka orchestrated an attack where midfielder Kevin Molino and Cyle Larin would make diagonal runs from the center of the pitch, forcing United center-back Kofi Opare out of position. This style nearly paid off on several chances, but Hamid shut the door every single time. In the 32nd minute he averted disaster one-on-one with Molino by forcing the Trinidadian to take a poor angle on his shot.
Molino and Larin would work together on another great opportunity for OCSC shortly before half-time when Molino would find Larin in space. Larin, the number one overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, hit a shot inside the box that looked promising but would ultimately be saved by Hamid.
Hamid’s efforts certainly kept United in the match, but it will be Silva’s goal that will be the lasting image of this match. After a month of waiting for their striker woes to clear, United finally have one half of the attacking combination that helped lift the club to first place in the Eastern Conference in 2014. Silva had a coming out party in 2014, scoring a career-best 11 goals and forming a strong partnership with Fabian Espindola (11 goals).
But 2015 has been a struggle for United to find consistency on the attacking front. Both Silva and Designated Player Eddie Johnson have been out for all of United’s first 4 matches due to injury (Johnson is still out and is likely lost for the season due to a heart issue). Espindola, meanwhile, is still serving a six-game suspension because of his actions in last year’s MLS Playoffs.
Without their top three goalscorers from 2014, Olsen has leaned heavily on Jairo Arrieta, Chris Rolfe, and Chris Pontius. United’s record early on may be decent (their record prior to this match was 2-1-0) but the club seemed to lack the same tenacity on the attack that they had in 2014. Even after just 15 minutes of play on Friday night, it is apparent what Silva brings to this team and once they have everyone healthy, where they can go in 2015.