WASHINGTON — The Union secured another huge road win Wednesday, as goals from C.J. Sapong and Fafa Picault beat D.C. United 2-0 at a steaming Audi Field.
It's the first time ever that the Union (12-11-3, 39 points) have won five straight games: the last four in the league and the U.S. Open Cup semifinal before then. The victory also tied team records for most road wins in a season (five) and most overall wins in a season.
"I love my players right now," Curtin said. "I love each and every one of them — the effort that they're giving, there's something special going on with this group."
D.C. (7-11-6, 27 points) controlled the play early on, with star Wayne Rooney firing two salvos. He hit the post in the eighth minute after a spin move that left Andre Blake helpless; then, in the 20th, chipped Blake from 15 yards but narrowly missed the net.
Three minutes later, Sapong struck the opener. He played a lovely give-and-go with Cory Burke after Fafa Picault split D.C.'s defense with a through ball. Burke forced a save from D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid, and the rebound fell right into Sapong's path.
It was Sapong's first goal when playing with Burke, further validating manager Jim Curtin's tactical shift that moved Sapong from striker to winger.
Just before halftime, Jack Elliott escaped conceding a penalty kick when D.C.'s Paul Arriola hit a cross into Elliott's right arm. The arm wasn't outstretched by much, but it took a review by the replay booth to confirm that it wasn't worth a penalty kick.
Picault doubled the lead in the 61st minute by finishing off a pretty passing sequence. Dockal spotted Sapong wide open on the right wing, played a through ball, Sapong crossed it low and Picault slammed the ball home from close range.
Blake took care of the rest, catching everything that came his way in the last half hour and never even giving up a rebound.
The Union have now pitched three straight shutouts, silencing David Villa and Rooney — two of Major League Soccer's most lethal strikers — along the way.
At the start of the season, the Union won just two of their first nine games. Now they're above .500 at a time of consequence for the first time in two years, and just one point back of fourth-place Columbus.
"We had a tough stretch at the beginning of the year, but we believed in ourselves, stuck to what we believed in, and now you're starting to see the work come out on the field," Curtin said.
Or, as Picault put it: "We've proved to people we don't suck. Everybody thought we sucked. Now I think it's obvious we don't."
He might just have a point.