After their unfortunate dust up following United’s dissatisfying and controversial home draw with Philadelphia Sunday night, it was perhaps a bit ironic that Chris Korb combined brilliantly with Brandon McDonald for DC United’s third goal in their 4-2 win over Chicago Wednesday night on an unusually cool August night in the nation’s capital.
“After I scored he came over and said, ‘Maybe we should get into it every day after the game’ and I said hey it might be something,” said McDonald about Korb after the goal.
This game was not nearly as physical, not nearly as contentious as the Philadelphia match, with nary the controversial decision by a referee or anyone else but still not without drama. And the short turnaround was seemingly a good thing as United were forced to put those negative thoughts to bed quickly and focus on the Fire, who had won three in a row coming into the match.
“I guess it motivated them and we still feel a little bit wronged and it is still a little bit on all of our minds. I’m glad we responded in the right way today,” said United coach Ben Olsen.
“It was good because we had to get over it,” added McDonald. “We felt like we got one taken away from us last game, so I think we were kind of riding off that. Everybody here knew what was at stake because that was a big game for us in the standings table. To come out with this result is huge.”
Other than the exceptional goal by McDonald, United’s three others while legitimate chances at goal, could have, and perhaps should have, been stopped by Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson. The final tally especially, a change up from Long Tan inside the penalty area, barely trickled through Johnson’s hands after diving to his left.
It was the first goal for Tan in a DC United shirt as was Lionard Pajoy’s tally seconds before the halftime whistle to make the score 2-1. That had even greater significance in that Dan Paladini had drawn the Fire level just moments earlier.
Johnson’s faulty judgment on letting a poor Chris Pontius shot slide by him gave Dwayne De Rosario an easy go of it for his sixth goal of the season, and 99th of his sterling career, in the 19th minute. Pontius mishit his initial shot from the top left corner of the penalty area but De Rosario saw an opportunity and pounced, sneaking through a crowd to meet the errant shot at the far post for his first goal since May 19.
De Rosario’s touch has been off of late and his overall production has suffered accordingly, perhaps feeling a little bit of pressure to reach that century mark for career goals, which only six other players have achieved in league history.
“I think he senses that this team needs him now and the team needs him to be great. He’s inching towards that and I’m hoping that he can consistently put numbers on the board again,” Olsen said.
“It’s a long season and this is crunch time, where every team is picking it up a gear and we need to do the same, especially me,” said De Rosario. I’m one of the main leaders of this time – me and Wolfey (Josh Wolff)– and we take a lot of responsibility on ourselves when the team doesn’t perform or when the team doesn’t do well and we’re willing to stand up for our team. “
United have made it a bad habit to give up goals shortly after scoring themselves and did so again, and on another free kick, leaving Gonzalo Segares inexplicably unmarked in the penalty area in the 75th minute to trim the lead to 3-2.
“We could have put them away much earlier, but besides that, and the two plays we fouled up, it was a really good night,” said Olsen. “The free kick, the set piece was unacceptable. We have to sort that out. When you make subs, it’s easy to lose track of who has who, but we have to sort that out. That’s unacceptable. If were in a tight game, that could cost us.”
United (12-8-4, 40 points) have not lost at home since March 10 but had been on a little skid as of late, with just a win and a draw in their last five matches. The win lifts United to within a point of Chicago for 4th place in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand.
Two other notable performances were Andy Najar at right back and the tandem of Perry Kitchen and Marcelo Saragosa, who was making his first league start since May 2.
Najar was menacing the entire match and provided the service for Pajoy’s goal.
“He has these unique qualities in this League and they all lend itself to the modern right back” said Olsen, “ You look at soccer now and the outside backs have to be good on the ball and dynamic, they have to have great engines to get up and down the field and they have to be brave in their defending. He’s got a lot of those qualities. He will grow into it. We’ll still use him on the flanks and it’s a good option to have.”
This is the third time the 19-year-old Najar has been forced into this role this season due to injuries or suspensions and he took full advantage of this opportunity that may be more permanent than expected. When asked if he would consider leaving the teenager at right back, Olsen said nothing but just smiled and nodded his head repeatedly.
“He always tells me my natural position is right back. But nobody listens to Brandon,” said Najar with a chuckle about McDonald’s advice to him.
Saragosa and Kitchen are similar players so their success was more unlikely. Saragosa played much deeper than Kitchen but they still held the middle of the park in check for United.
“On paper it has always made sense. If their spacing is right, they can coexist,” said Olsen. “Sometimes when you have two like-minded guys in the same spot, you worry about them both doing that holding midfield role and not being able to push out. I’ll tell you what – they did it very well tonight and I was very pleased. It’s an option now going forward for sure.”
United have another quick turnaround, heading to Montreal for a game on Saturday. The two teams played on the last day of June with United waltzing to an easy 3-0 victory at RFK Stadium but like Montreal was on that day, United will be playing their third game in a week this time around. Montreal had actually played five games in the last 15 days of that month that also included a trip to Chivas USA.
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