Lewis Neal and Hamdi Salihi combined for the second goal tonight for D.C. United
We went into the 2012 season thinking that Dwayne De Rosario and Hamdi Salihi were going to score the majority of goals for the club. De Rosario was coming off an MVP season that finally saw him get the paycheck he deserved, and Salihi entered with a goal-scoring record that rivals only Jaime Moreno.
Since then though, we've seen other players step up. We've seen Maicon Santos and Chris Pontius battle for the team lead in goals while being unexpectedly named the top forward pairing by Ben Olsen. We've also seen rookie Nick DeLeon prove to the league that he was taken far too late in the first round of the MLS Draft by adding three goals of his own.
So what happens to D.C. United then when all three of those player go down injured? The stars show us why they're stars. That's what happened against the Colorado Rapids tonight at RFK Stadium. De Rosario and Salihi each secured goals, with United claiming three points in a 2-0 victory.We also went into the season thinking that Branko Boskovic would be a big part of United's offense. We thought the best chance the team had of competing in the Eastern Conference would be for all three of its designated players, including Boskovic, to deliver major contributions. This was the first match of 2012 in which he really delivered on those expectations. Boskovic was a constant threat on crosses and corner kicks, and really showed a confidence that we hadn't seen from him before this season, even getting into the box to help give Salihi a classic poacher's goal.
If we want to elaborate further on the depth that Olsen was forced to use in this condensed month of May, Lewis Neal was also brilliant for D.C. His crossing was really impressive, and it played a role in both goals for United.
The defense deserves more credit than they're likely to receive tonight though. As does Perry Kitchen, who the team came so close to losing mere days ago. The center back pairing of Brandon McDonald and Daniel Woolard has now given up a grand total of one goal in its three matches together. That's a 0.33 goals against average (which happens to coincide with Bill Hamid's return to the starting lineup, coincidentally or not). Woolard has really enjoyed a career resurgence this year as a bit of a utility defender. (Wait can I use the word "resurgence" when someone had never really "surged" previously? Is "surgence" a more appropriate yet invocabular term?)
After gaining just three points in three straight matches on the road, nine points from our three straight matches at home would be required for United to stay on pace for two points per game over the course of the season. D.C. took a big step towards gaining those nine points tonight, in arguably the toughest matchup of the home stand. Games against Toronto FC and the New England Revolution now loom. Those are winnable games. The team wearing black tonight should be able to win them.