Its been almost a month since D.C. United defeated FC Dallas 4-1 at RFK Stadium on national television. Since then, the team had put together a series of hard-fought but ultimately disappointing draws, and a single deserved but unimpressive road win. Despite a savory matchup with an expansion team last week following the New England Revolution win, United still hasn't been able to end its three-season-long multi-game-win drought.
United defeated the Red Bulls by the same score in the same location on the same broadcast platform. That Dallas game inspired a ton of optimism across the United fanbase, causing us to think that D.C. could be one of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. Tonight's game reminded us that that optimism wasn't unfounded. And second place in the Eastern Conference is exactly where this team now resides.
And where it belongs.
Much like that Dallas game though, doubters could make excuses for why United prevailed. This wasn't the greatest of Red Bulls teams that we beat. They were razor thin at the back and throughout central midfield, missing several key players, and being forced to start a handful of low-quality unproven players who probably won't ever be consistent MLS starters, like Markus Holgersson, Victor Palsson, and Dax McCarty.
But United didn't play down to the level of its competition. They didn't let a weakened opponent off the hook. They pounced. They went for the kill. And Chris Pontius led the way.
In his second start of the week after a full month resting outside the starting lineup, Pontius scored a hat trick, proving Ben Olsen right to reward him with a spot in his chosen 11.
United out-worked the Red Bulls. They were clinical and decisive when going at goal, full of hustle and precision. On more than one occasion, a United player single-handedly created a goal while being defended by three New York players, once from Maicon Santos, and once from Pontius himself. Nick DeLeon added another goal off a deflection and the 4-1 rout was on.
Pontius just served notice to Hamdi Salihi as well. Have fun on the bench, bro. You've just joined Branko Boskovic, Andy Najar, and Bill Hamid on the list of players who started for United in the season opener against Sporting Kansas City and were projected to be regular starters throughout the season but are now fighting for minutes off the bench.
Unlike last Saturday, this wasn't necessarily a great day for D.C. sports in general. The Capitals failed to close out their first-round playoff series at home. But Olsen's Army did its best to make up for it in a big way. Nobody likes New York. Nobody. And how could you with such a lazy and uninspired performance? How could you when D.C. United is just so much better?