DC United probably isn't going to win any trophies this year. And they're going to have a really hard time making the playoffs. But they've now had two unexpected victories in 2010 that will create lasting memories from a season that has otherwise gone awry.
First it was their victory over Santos Laguna to become the first American club ever to win in Mexico. And now United can add to their resumes a victory over Italian superpower AC Milan.
Obviously I'm biased, but our win seemed more meaningful. Mostly because DC United has struggled so much this season. But also because the win came while playing attractive soccer. Two of our three goals were well-deserved and well-earned. This is the first time in 2010 that United has resembled those Supporters' Shield winning teams of 2006 and 2007.
So what players stood out the most?
The clear choices are Chris Pontius and Santino Quaranta, two players who always seem to be at their best when working together. This is the first we've seen Pontius looking like the player who started out the 2009 season so hot. His one goal and one assist performance was great to watch. Quaranta was asked to play withdrawn forward for the first time this year and he did well there. May we see him in that spot again on Saturday? Quaranta's corner kicks and free kicks were a huge upgrade over those of Christian Castillo.
Luciano Emilio scoring in this match could be huge for the club. He's always been known as a very streaky scorer. Hopefully this goal will give him the confidence he needs to start making an impact in MLS. Its hard to advocate Emilio starting ahead of Danny Allsopp since he has scored half of our goals this year in league play, but that is what I'd be leaning towards if I was Curt Onalfo. We need to give Emilio a chance to heat up.
I'm also glad that everyone else got a chance to see the Barry Rice that I've seen in reserve matches. He stood up Filippo Inzaghi one-on-one, and cleared pretty much everything that came close to him. Julius James also did well to help protect the lead, and it should be noted that Jordan Graye was the only DC player to go all 90 minutes.
And lastly, we can all say confidently now that the goalkeeper question has been answered. And that answer is Bill Hamid. I can't stress enough how absolutely CRUCIAL his early save on Pato was. If Pato had scored for AC Milan in the first minute, this would have been a completely different match. United would have been demoralized and maybe would have rolled over, while Milan would have been inspired to add many more goals to their tally. That vital save may have won Bill Hamid the starting goalkeeper job for the duration of the season.
There were some players who were somewhat less impressive. Troy Perkins, Kurt Morsink, and Thabiso Khumalo come to mind. But this isn't the time for criticism. This is the time for a short celebration. And then its back to work this Saturday against Chivas USA, a game which now looks oh so very winnable.