Player Ratings: D.C. United Vs. Columbus Crew, Round 2

We had a comment yesterday suggesting that the goal from Chris Pontius against the Columbus Crew was "a simple clean-up finish ... Anybody could have scored it."

I disagree.

Pontius wasn't just in the right place at the right time. That's not how a guy gets 10 goals. Let's think for a second about who would have been playing on the opposite wing from Nick DeLeon. It would have to be either Danny Cruz or Lewis Neal. Do we trust that either Cruz or Neal would have had the quickness, elusiveness, and soccer IQ to be sneaking into the box at the back post? Do we trust that they would have finished on target?

Pontius has a unique set of skills, and Ben Olsen has found a way to use them in a way that has made the team successful. I also disagree with Chest's comment that Pontius and Dwayne De Rosario are about even for the Team MVP nod at this point. In my mind, it's not even close. 10 goals > 10 assists. But aside from that, Pontius has six game-winning goals. There are games that this D.C. United team has won this year that they wouldn't have won without Pontius. He's been a revelation

Maybe the most important point in his favor though is that Pontius has been scoring when no one else has. You think the team has been slumping lately? That's fair. United is 3-0-3 since the beginning of June. Pontius scored the lone goal in two of those three wins. Just think what this slump would have looked like if Pontius was slumping as well.

I've been harping for weeks now that Pontius needs to get the ball more often. He's so hot right now. Give him lots of chances, and he'll get lots of goals. Pontius didn't play a perfect game, but if he scores one goal out of every three good chances, then United needs to give him at least three good chances a game. Or preferably, six. Maybe even nine.

Obviously Pontius didn't create the goal against the Crew by himself though. DeLeon has been getting a lot of credit, and rightfully so, but we can't ignore the play of De Rosario either. He smartly and patiently held off a defender and waited for DeLeon to round him before sending the ball down the field into an area only the rookie could get it. This was DeRo's best game in weeks.

We can't leave out the defense of course. Brandon McDonald, Emiliano Dudar, and Chris Korb did a very good job of limiting the number of difficult stops that Bill Hamid would have to make. He still made all of them, and the team earned a well-deserved shutout. McDonald, Dudar, and Korb have solidified their places in the starting lineup for the time being. The fourth spot? We'll have to work on that.

I guess Long Tan deserves some credit for not totally effing up Pontius' goal like I was worried he might. But just like how we asked ourselves if Neal or Cruz would have scored at the back post in a similar situation, let's also ask ourselves if Hamdi Salihi or Maicon Santos would have scored before the ball even made its way to Pontius. I'm inclined to answer yes. Tan did make a few good plays, specifically when the Crew had the ball. If he's now our top-choice starter, he didn't do anything to lose that responsibility. But if they get several chances, strikers are going to have to score sooner or later, right?

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