Player Ratings: D.C. United Vs. Houston Dynamo

The game-winner from Maicon Santos was the best headed goal from a D.C. United player in recent memory. Daniel Woolard served in a perfect ball over the top of the two tall Houston Dynamo center backs, and Santos came backwards to elude them while cutting his head hard to powerfully place the ball out of Tally Hall's reach and into the far upper corner of the net. We've come to expect those plays from Santos this year as he's having his most consistently excellent season of his career. What we didn't expect, but perhaps should have, was that cross from Woolard. Unlike the left back that he replaced in United's starting lineup last year, Woolard will hit balls like that more than just once a year.

Ben Olsen would probably still tell you that Chris Pontius hasn't learned how to be a forward yet, but on Saturday night he showed that he's making legitimate progress in that arena. One thing he hasn't learned yet is that forwards are supposed to shoot at the goal when the keeper is out no matter how tough the angle is. Forwards aren't supposed to patiently wait for their strike partners to get open and then lob a serve right onto his head. Forwards don't do that! But Pontius does.

If this game was anything though, it was the return of 2011 Dwayne De Rosario. Early in the game, he was creating nonstop chances, but the precision was just a bit off. He found that though on the team's second goal. Hopefully he keeps it for the rest of the year.

If there was any doubt prior to this match that Emiliano Dudar is United's most valuable player, there shouldn't be anymore. With Dudar on the field, Houston couldn't get a sniff at goal. In the first few minutes without him, the game was suddenly in doubt. He wins more balls with his chest than most defenders win with their heads, and that's not just a comment on his height.

How much can we really blame Perry Kitchen and Robbie Russell for being thrust out of position? In the opening minutes of the second half, both seemed uncomfortable, and it led to a goal from Will Bruin. If Kitchen played right back the way that he played central midfield, Jermaine Taylor wouldn't have been so open to make that cross. The same would be true had Russell remained on the right.

Staying on the first goal, Danny Cruz got beat by Taylor leading up to the goal, and didn't have as much impact on the attack as he's had in other matches this year. He was his usual energetic self, but that energy seemed more aimless this week. Some players get up for matches against their former teams by scoring goals. Other players get up for matches against their former teams by trying to injure their best player.

This was the second game in which Joe Willis had fewer saves than goals allowed, but it was the first game in which he made a really bad mistake. We've credited Willis many times for his positioning, and positioning wasn't the problem on Houston's second goal. Willis just wasn't able to hang onto the wet ball. It was his first bad mistake in eight games. Willis has bailed out the team on several occasions already this year. Saturday night, they returned the favor.

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