There's been a noticeable change in the results column for D.C. United this season. Wait, our defense is better than our offense all of a sudden? When did that happen? Oh yeah, when Ben Olsen decided to sign and start Emiliano Dudar. For the second time in two weeks, he was the standout player for the United and our Man Of The Match. He wins challenges effortlessly and was a big part of the reason that the Seattle Sounders had so few legitimate chances.
Dudar also makes those around him better. Take Daniel Woolard and Dejan Jakovic for example. The two holdovers from our 2011 back line look like totally different players. I wouldn't have imagined these two completely shutting down Fredy Montero last year, but they sure did it on Saturday night. If Jakovic can play this well every week, he could grab a hold of a permanent starting job like Woolard already has done.
I thought this was the best match of the season so far for both Robbie Russell and Perry Kitchen. Russell really locked down the Alvaro Fernandez on Seattle's left side and picked his moments to get forward well. He didn't have as much help on his flank as we would have liked but it didn't matter because Russell was up for the challenge. Kitchen seemed like he was everywhere in United's half, popping up to win headers and 50-50 balls both in the box and closer to midfield. His passing was a bit off at least in the first 20 minutes or so, but he settled down later.
The first touch of Nick DeLeon is like the Rachel McAdams of soccer moves. Its not exactly the sexiest thing to describe or observe, but its beautiful and it just works every single time. If he's well marked, he moves the ball into space when receiving it to maintain possession. If he's not, he quickly advances the attack. His first touch is such an underrated weapon, and its going to help create a great number of goals for D.C. this season.
In the press box before the FC Dallas game last week, I was chatting with Sebi Salazar (oh I drop the biggest names) about Olsen's choice to continue to include Maicon Santos in the starting lineup. Salazar pointed out specifically Santos' ability to hold up the ball and act as an outlet in transition. Well obviously he did a few other things right against Dallas that stood out for other reasons, but those little things are what he did well against Seattle. I'd like to see United take advantage of that more often. Especially since ball-winning seems to be one of his strike partner's deficiencies, this team should look to get the ball into Santos' area frequently in the air, because he's going to come down with it fairly often.
The battle between Dwayne De Rosario and Osvaldo Alonso in central midfield didn't exactly go our way. It didn't exactly go the way Alonso wanted either though I guess, considering that his ability to procreate may now be limited. De Rosario was a bigger help defensively than I'd have expected, but that's not quite what we're really paying him designated player money for. His touch wasn't what it could have been in the final third.
It doesn't really make sense to me how a person could have two crossbar strikes already this year, but no goals. If the rules were changed to raise the crossbar by two inches, Hamdi Salihi's MLS career would be off and running. Instead, he's still stuck in the blocks. He hasn't displayed the ability to create and finish his own chances, and he still hasn't received enough of the service that he needs. But we're still left believing that Salihi's time will come. Perhaps if he takes Kasey Keller's advice and changes his name to Sahili, he'll start scoring goals in bunches.
Coming off the bench isn't a bad look for Chris Pontius, especially as he appears to still be just a bit less than 100% healthy. He was active on the left wing after entering the match from Danny Cruz, but he failed to do enough with what was our best chance of the late stages of the game, cutting inside but putting a low ball into the neverland that lies between the goal mouth and the on-rushing attackers. Cruz too had a bit of an off-night. His high-energy low-technique style of play didn't quite work in this match. Perhaps it will work better as a second half substitute next week in New England.