Tampa Bay Sports Day

Refocused United races away to a 4-1 win

After losing a 2-0 lead on Wednesday night, Ben Olsen confessed that he didn’t know how to train his players to maintain their focus. On Saturday, it appeared that he had found the way.

Granted, the spectacular hat trick from Dwayne DeRosario, which set a new MLS record at 31 minutes for earliest completion of the feat, was a masterpiece of individual effort, but the real story was how he was set up to succeed.

The Canadian emphasized the contribution of those around him, “I can’t speak more highly about the performance all around from the guys. I think collectively, as a unit, it was first class, from Bill right up to the forwards.”

DC United and Real Salt Lake have a history of playing possession soccer. Often that results in a grinding fight in midfield. In this particular game, both teams came out with the same idea, play compactly to thwart midfield linkups and flip the ball over the top or slip it through openings to get behind the defense.

DeRosario credits the strategy for both Najar’s goal off his finely threaded through ball and his own header off Najar’s perfectly placed lob. “Most importantly, we kept our shape and that’s what Ben wanted us to do.” He later added, “We stuck to the game plan, stayed compact.”

There is an adage in soccer that says, “Front to back, play compact; side to side, keep it wide.” Although most often adhering to the rule, both teams sometimes reverted to half-width play, leaving space down the sides which was almost never exploited by Salt Lake and more often put to use by United.

Veteran and captain, Josh Wolff seconded DeRosario’s praise of the overall team effort, “We’re not a one man show although DeRo takes a lot of the credit tonight…It comes back to the discipline of how we approach things.”

He elaborated on playing a compact style front to back and featuring over the top balls, “It’s indicative of the guys you have out there.”

When a team has players like Najar, Marc Burch, or Santino Quaranta who can place long balls onto attackers’ heads or feet, opponents can more easily be bypassed when front to back distance is shortened. “They (RSL) do a good job of closing space like we talk about in our group, keeping the space between forwards and the backs to 35 yards.”

A shortened midfield negated one of Salt Lake’s most potent weapons, Kyle Beckerman, who never seemed to have enough room to dominate play as he has so often in the past. Conditions were a bit unusual for both teams and, “I think we responded better…Andy’s ball to DeRo was amazing and obviously DeRo’s to Andy was as well”, was how Wolff summed it up.

Former DC United coach, Peter Nowak will surely study the films of this game and it will be interesting to see whether he chooses to play the compact game on Thursday or finds another way to open up play to put extra stress on United’s young back line.

Scoring Summary:

DC — Andy Najar 4 (Dwayne De Rosario 11) 13
DC — Dwayne De Rosario 11 (Andy Najar 6) 22
DC — Dwayne De Rosario 12 (Josh Wolff 6) 27
DC — Dwayne De Rosario 13 (unassisted) 31
RSL — Alvaro Saborio 10 (Paulo Araujo Jr. 4) 86

Real Salt Lake — Nick Rimando, Blake Wagner (Will Johnson 62), Nat Borchers, Rauwshan McKenzie, Chris Wingert, Arturo Alvarez (Luis Gil 62), Kyle Beckerman, Collen Warner, Ned Grabavoy, Paulo Araujo Jr., Jean Alexandre (Alvaro Saborio 75).

Substitutes Not Used: Fabian Espindola, Javier Morales, Chris Schuler, Tim Melia.

D.C. United — Bill Hamid, Perry Kitchen, Ethan White, Brandon McDonald, Marc Burch, Andy Najar (Brandon Barklage 81), Stephen King, Clyde Simms, Austin Da Luz, Josh Wolff (Blake Brettschneider 74), Dwayne De Rosario (Joseph Ngwenya 65).

Substitutes Not Used: Charlie Davies, Santino Quaranta, Daniel Woolard, Joe Willis.

Misconduct Summary:

RSL — Collen Warner (caution; Reckless Tackle) 59

Referee: Edvin Jurisevic
Referee’s Assistants: Chris Strickland; Adam Garner
4th Official: Andrew Chapin

Time of game: 1:49
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-73-degrees
Attendance: 16,367