Tampa Bay Sports Day

DC United comes of age with 4-0 win

In their last two home games DC United seems to have finally matured into the complete team that Coach Ben Olsen has sought to build. With the acquisition and integration of Dwayne DeRosario, Olsen now has a broad-based attack which forces opponents to make more choices than most can handle.

Whether playing as an attacking midfielder or a forward, DeRosario has the freedom to attack from any angle he wishes. Teams must cover him at all times, usually with a primary cover and close backup.

Since he varies his runs across the entire field, defenders are forced to choose to follow or pass him on. If he operated as a sole threat, that would be very achievable. With the speed and still growing strength of Charlie Davies to complement him, he gets a bit of breathing room.

Add the continued maturing of Andy Najar and Chris Pontius on the wings, and the poor defenders require even more support from their midfielders. Either player is more than happy to take on several at a time, sometimes cutting directly inside and sometimes choosing a wider route.

More classical soccer teams have a few large central players to reward the down-to-the-line cross. United, one of the smaller teams in MLS, does not. Instead, Najar and DeRosario seem to take special delight in dancing along the line to fire a short pass or surprising shot from close range.

Najar’s shocking goal against the Whitecaps was a classic example of just that aggressive mentality. Pontius’ style is a bit more subtle. His movement looks deceptively smooth until he suddenly swings around his marker to strike.

He still tends to drift inside to find the ball, but an examination of both his goals reveals that it was his holding back from closing in until the right moment that gained him the momentum and space to score.

On his first goal he paused, saw DeRosario beat his men and only then went sharply at goal. That reflects a mature and dangerous vision. On his second goal, he held his width as he saw two teammates already inside and thus owned the wider space which allowed him to shoot cleanly.

Tino Quaranta’s recovery from concussion came just in time for him to step into a creative midfield role with which he has struggled before. DeRosario’s success as a forward, and his willingness and that of Davies to withdraw to receive and work the ball, has allowed Quaranta just enough additional space for him to pick out long range targets to bring out some of the confidence of his first few years.

Quaranta’s blast from 35 yards nearly beat the Whitecaps’ keeper Jay Nolly and another similarly hard shot rocked the ‘Caps wall. Defenses now know that they must guard him more closely and the keeper will have yet another movement to track.

The aggressive attitude has now permeated the team. Left back Daniel Woolard barely missed his own 25 yard rocket. Marc Burch came on late to spell Pontius at left midfield and added his own attacking movement, nearly setting up yet another United goal.

Finally, Stephen King wrote his own short horror story for Vancouver as he came on for Santino Quaranta and got the goal that Quaranta had tried so hard all game to obtain. King was cool and smooth as he cut smartly around his marker and sharply slotted the ball past Nolly.

He has shown well in cameo appearances and reserve games and gives the hard working Clyde Simms an occasional chance to rest.

In his own younger days, Simms would pair with Olsen in a holding midfield role and either player would occasionally crack low and hard drives at goal. Saturday saw him do just that as he began again looking for such long-range chances.

Olsen has successfully encouraged a team that has a sad history of trying to dribble the ball into goal to try whatever works from whatever distance and to do it with a menacing attitude.

DC’s defense, which helped Joe Willis keep a clean sheet in Bill Hamid’s absence, seems to have settled in nicely as the strength of Brandon McDonald and speed of Dejan Jakovic have combined with the growth of Perry Kitchen and Daniel Woolard to somewhat lighten the load on Simms and King who previously had too much space to cover.

Balance is a vital component of good soccer, and Olsen seems finally to have the tools in place to achieve it. As more players come off the injured list, he has the depth to use reliable contributors like Burch, Ethan White, and Josh Wolff.

This team is within striking distance of first place in the Eastern Conference and is about to enter a testing pair of tightly spaced away games which make up their very valuable games in hand to close on the leaders. Depth is of the essence, and DC United has it.

Scoring Summary:
DC — Chris Pontius 6 (Dwayne De Rosario 7) 47+
DC — Andy Najar 3 (Santino Quaranta 2) 48
DC — Chris Pontius 7 (unassisted) 70
DC — Stephen King 1 (Dwayne De Rosario 8) 81

Vancouver Whitecaps — Jay Nolly, Jonathan Leathers, Michael Boxall, Jay DeMerit (Davide Chiumiento 62), Jordan Harvey, John Thorrington (Jeb Brovsky 70), Gershon Koffie, Peter Vagenas (Mustapha Jarju 71), Shea Salinas, Eric Hassli, Camilo.

Substitutes Not Used: Bilal Duckett, Michael Nanchoff, Long Tan, Joe Cannon.

TOTAL SHOTS: 9 (Camilo 3, Eric Hassli 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 7 (Camilo 3); FOULS: 8 (John Thorrington 2); OFFSIDES: 1 (Camilo 1); CORNER KICKS: 2 (Camilo 1, Shea Salinas 1); SAVES: 4 (Jay Nolly 4)

D.C. United — Joe Willis, Perry Kitchen, Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic, Daniel Woolard, Santino Quaranta (Stephen King 63), Clyde Simms, Andy Najar (Austin Da Luz 74), Chris Pontius (Marc Burch 77), Dwayne De Rosario, Charlie Davies.

Substitutes Not Used: Blake Brettschneider, Ethan White, Josh Wolff, Steve Cronin.

TOTAL SHOTS: 19 (Dwayne De Rosario 6); SHOTS ON GOAL: 8 (3 tied with 2); FOULS: 13 (Dejan Jakovic 3, Andy Najar 3); OFFSIDES: 2 (Dwayne De Rosario 2); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Andy Najar 2); SAVES: 6 (Joe Willis 6)

Misconduct Summary:
VAN — Camilo (caution; Reckless Foul) 15
DC — Brandon McDonald (caution; Dissent) 39
VAN — Michael Boxall (caution; Reckless Tackle) 46+
DC — Charlie Davies (caution; Dissent) 60

Referee: Hilario Grajeda
Referee’s Assistants: -George Gansner; Paul Scott
4th Official: Mark Declouet
Attendance: 11,738
Time of Game: 1:48
Weather: Cloudy-and-77-degrees