Tampa Bay Sports Day

DeRosario’s leadership opens chances for others

Dwayne DeRosario has energized a respectable but uninspired attack and is the first DC United player since perhaps Jaime Moreno and Christian Gomez in their prime that is a true game changer and match winner.

United’s results since his arrival, however, have been equally respectable but still uninspiring, especially at home despite fighting their way back into the muddled Eastern Conference playoff picture.

And just like those stars, he has quickly become the focal point of an attack and a team that is showing some promise at perhaps just the right time. But for that promise to be actualized, some of the other key players have to step up do their part.

United’s 4-0 pasting of Vancouver last Saturday was their first home win since a 2-1 performance against Seattle on May 4 and the mood in the locker room was certainly happy with the subtle tones of relief.

United is now over .500 this late in the season since 2009 and have drawn their goal differential back to level terms (33 goals for and against), despite giving up four goals on four different occasions and three goals once.

“We’d all be lying if we didn’t say that the home record wasn’t wearing on us and this gives us a little bit of an exhale when we come home,” said United coach Ben Olsen.

United have scored 12 goals while conceding just six in the seven games with DeRosario in the lineup. He did not score but had two assists Saturday night and after scoring a dramatic goal to beat New York in his second start, United’s attack has run exclusively through the Canadian International.

“The guy has worked very hard to be an option up there and the players trust him. When you make real plays time after time, it’s pretty natural that you start to try and find that guy. We do preach get the ball to Dwayne as much as possible but that is what you want to do with all of your good players,” said Olsen.

“Your go-to players need to touch ball, that’s what they are there for. He’s always getting one, two and sometimes three guys at times so we are going to have to get some guys to step up.”

Every time DeRosario touched the ball or made a penetrating run in the attacking third of the park, Vancouver double and triple-teamed him, running defenders at him from seemingly all directions. That sort of attention makes decisive and timely runs off the ball by his mates extremely critical.

“With DeRo now we want to possess the ball and keep it and so we actually get a few more numbers in advance of the ball. He’s a guy (with the ball) at his feet, he can make things happen, he can score goals, he can slip guys.

“He’s been fantastic since he’s come to us. We have got to find other ways to get it done but he is obviously the guy we want to shape our attacks around,” said forward Josh Wolff, who did not play last weekend still nursing a hamstring strain.

Despite all of the attention from opposition on which his teammates now heavily rely, the championships with San Jose and Houston, the multiple MLS Cup MVP awards and All Star games, DeRosario is quiet and humble and quick with standard clichés.

“I am happy about that (the goals) but I am looking for the results,” he said. “Credit goes to the guys around me; they are the one’s giving me good service and putting in the work and finding me in good positions. I am definitely happy with that position but I would like to see us get some points at home.”

United visits Chicago, Wolff’s original team, this Thursday night for the first of three games in ten days. They will then travel to scorching hot Kansas City, Wolff’s next stop during his lengthy career, for a Sunday tilt before returning home Saturday for their first ever match against Portland.

Charlie Davies, who has also been hampered by a recent knee injury, was routinely threatening and played the full 90-minutes against Vancouver. As all of their critical players are now basically healthy, United have also caught the most unlikely of breaks as the temperatures in Washington have been, and will continue to be, unseasonably cool, hovering in the low to mid 80’s.

“It’s been a good week as far as weather for us so we’ll be able to push the guys a little more than usual but we are deep; we are as deep as we’ve been all year right now,” said Olsen. “A lot of healthy bodies; and I expect to use more than eleven guys in the starting rotation over the next week.”