Russell Canouse’s First MLS Goal Lifts D.C. United into Playoff Positioning

Photo credit: D.C. United

The clock began ticking in a scoreless game. Just under five minutes from stoppage time, D.C. United needed a goal for an important three-points that would put them ahead the Montreal Impact for the final playoff spot. Enter midfielder Russell Canouse, who was searching for his first MLS goal. An opportunity fell into his lap, or in soccer terms- his foot, but the only problem was that two defenders were all over him. After his first shot was hit the crossbar, Canouse followed the ball and laid out a header over the stretched arms FC Dallas goalie Jesse Gonzalez into the goal.

“I got the ball right there, hit the crossbar, somehow the ball pushed back to me and I followed it up and hit it in. It was special, obviously, the situation we’re in as a team, to get my first goal,” said Canouse. “I think maybe it wasn’t our best performance but we still put in a fighting effort and if we keep doing that we can still grind out results.”

Canouse, a Lancaster, Pennsylvania native, was acquired from TSG 1899 Hoffenheim last August and signed a multi-year deal. He got his first assist in a late-September game against the New York Red Bulls. D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen gave praise for the 23-year old’s blue collar work ethic since joining the club.

“Gusty stuff. He made a heck of a play on the goal. He probably should’ve finished it on the first one but he’s a gutsy kid. I’m glad he was rewarded for all the work he’s done this year with the goal. He does so many little things that go unnoticed since he’s been back in the lineup and he’s been such a big part of this turnaround,” added head coach Ben Olsen.

The goal sent the packed crowd at Audi Field into bedlam. Before that stadium even opened it’s doors, fans could only dream of a playoff berth. Now that dream is starting to look more and more like reality. A few minutes later the final whistle sounded and there was the home club right inside the playoff standings in the sixth and final playoff spot, leapfrogging the Montreal Impact.

The win improved D.C. United’s record to 12-11-8, good for 44 points. It was their third win in a row and it stretched their unbeaten streak to seven games. With just one point ahead of the Impact, D.C. United has an opportunity to pad their lead in the standings if they defeat Toronto FC on Wednesday night. That scenario would put the Impact down four points heading into their final two games, the first taking place Sunday Oct. 21 agaisnt that same Toronto FC team.

In the beginning both teams came out fairly even, registering three shots through the first 15 minutes. D.C. United thought they had an early strike thanks to a flying kick from Luciano Acosta but right before the play, Frederic Brillant pushed off a Dallas defender and was called for offsides.

FC Dallas outshot D.C. United 11-5 in the first half. Rooney had three shots while Acosta had two. D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid stopped all four shots on target he faced.

“It wasn’t perfect in the first half. We made a few adjustments, just more mentally than anything, just being a bit more aggressive and not as direct as we were in the first half. We started to trust each other with the ball,” said Olsen.

Rooney had a great look in the 54th minute but his shot sailed just high above the right-corner crossbar. In the 61st minute, D.C. United had a free kick but Rooney’s shot was saved by Gonzalez with a diving stop. The ball went off Gonzalez’s hands out of bounds, giving D.C. United a corner kick. Rooney fed it, Nick DeLeon had a touch in front of the net but used too much power as the kick went above the goal and out.

In the 75th minute, there was more pressure from United. A shot from Rooney was deflected. Over on the other end, Hamid made his best save of the evening. Michael Barrios came charging down and let off a high shot but Hamid lept high enough to catch it.

Then in the 86th minute, it was Canouse’s persistance and heroics that paid off. Red smoke filled the air on the other side of the field in front of the rabid supporters section and the team would later take a bow, a sign of thank you for riding along the second-half wave.

“It was a big win. We knew coming into the game if we won we would jump Montreal with a game in hand and we have been saying it, ‘we control our own destiny.’ Big game against Toronto on Wednesday and if we win that it really puts the pressure on Montreal for their game on the weekend. We know that if we win on Wednesday we will be in a very good spot. We have to build on the positives from tonight,” said defender Steven Birnbaum.

This win was not only a special one to put them closer to the playoffs but it also was one dedicated to Paul Arriola, who’s father passed away on Wednesday night. Arriola is back in San Diego with his family.

“It was a special moment for me. Obviously Paul wasn’t out on the field with me or the team today, he’s back at home with his family. I said in my (jumbotron) interview after the game ‘that goal was for him’. It’s sad but we all put out a performance today that pushed us towards a playoff spot and we have to keep going with Paul or without Paul. We know he will come back and will be strong but we have to stay strong for him and keep working hard,” said Canouse.

D.C. United is back at Audi Field on Wednesday night against Toronto FC. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.

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