The offense is clicking, and oh yeah, that's 3 shutouts in our last 4 matches. With a makeshift backline at that. Is it possible that DC United is peaking at exactly the right time? In 2006 and 2007 we peaked too early and faded late in the regular season, only to bust out of the playoffs before advancing out of the Eastern Conference. With the talent that this team has up front, and with Jakovic and Burch both hopefully to return to the starting lineup on Sunday, I see no reason why we can't be one of the leading contenders to reach MLS Cup.
1. When Luciano Emilio is hot, he's hot. How's that for analysis? Within the first 10 minutes of the match, Luci was getting chances, but missing them. In the second half, he just didn't know how to miss. His first goal came from a well directed header off a John cross, and the final goal was all Emilio, beating the Marathon keeper 1v1.
2. I'm not sure if DC was poised to pull away in the second half already, but the insertion of Jaime Moreno couldn't have hurt. He got off to a slow start, but his goal was just classic Moreno. He is still one of the best in MLS in that position in front of the goal because he is just so cool and collected.
3. So a 4-4-2 formation with two attacking wingers and two holding midfielders? I think this is what a lot of us had envisioned when United moved away from the diamond 4 midfield, but it's never looked as good as it looked tonight. The combination of Chris Pontius on the left and Santino Quaranta on the right is perfect for this formation. Pontius started the sequence that led to the first goal with a run up the left side, and Quaranta's smart touch to Moreno earned him an assist on the second. These two should be starting in these positions for the remainder of the MLS season. It's telling that Fred wasn't even on the 18-man roster.
4. Avery John and Lawson Vaughn both played well as our two fullbacks. John conjured up his inner Burch on his assist to Emilio for the first goal, and also shut down every attack on that side of the field. In his United debut, Vaughn certainly didn't look like a guy playing his first match in 2009, and he did well in replacing the unreplaceable Namoff.
5. Give credit to Josh Wicks, Julius James, and Clyde Simms for earning 3 clean sheets in our last 4 matches.
1. I didn't quite understand the removal of Tiyi Shipalane before halftime, but it seemed to work in Soehn's favor. Shipalane performed well getting forward, as I think we all expected against an inferior opponent. It probably won't be until next season that we get to see what he can do against another MLS team.
In the Insider's poll earlier this week, only 23% of voters predicted that United would advance in the Champions League. Now all it will take next week is a United victory at home over SJJ and a Toluca victory on the road over Marathon. Both are very likely at this point, and then all that will be left will be a meaningless faceoff between the B teams of DC and Toluca, with both having already clinched a spot in the next round. The quarterfinals won't be held until the week before the start of the 2010 MLS season, so no need to worry about fixture congestion at this point. It will be tough to advance further than that, but I think most United fans would be satisfied with the progress of at least moving past the group stage.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The more important match is this weekend against San Jose, who have already done us a lot of good by tying the Rapids twice in the last week. Look for United to put out the strongest starting lineup we've seen in months on Sunday. A win is all we need, but I think I'll be surprised if we win by anything less than 2 goals.