Despite having three regular starters out due to injury, D.C. United traveled to Quebec to take on the Montreal Impact, and handily dispatched their Eastern Conference rival 4-2. The game wasn't without drama and ups and downs, but D.C. United secured its most decisive road win in a regular season game since May 5, 2012, when the Black-and-Red defeated Toronto FC at BMO Field 2-0 with goals from Chris Pontius and Hamdi Salihi. And, to the surprise of fans and foes alike, the team finds itself sitting atop Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference at the World Cup break--and the storyline isn't that it's a fluke.
- Steven Goff, via washingtonpost.com: "Making his fifth start, [Luis] Silva posted his first goals of the season by scoring in the sixth and 39th minutes and then in stoppage time to cap a six-goal, 45-minute spree by the clubs before 14,135 at Saputo Stadium in Montreal. United leading scorer Fabian Espindola, making a case for MLS MVP consideration, recovered from last weekend's missed penalty kick against Columbus to contribute three assists and Nick DeLeon had his first goal of the year."
- Adam Taylor: "Could they really have been in Montreal the whole time? After spending much of the first half of this season wondering where the "real" Luis Silva and Nick DeLeon were hiding - these shadows on the field must surely have been imposters! - D.C. United fans on Wednesday night were reminded of the quality the two can bring as the Black-and-Red beat the Montreal Impact, 4-2."
- Olivier Tremblay, via mlssoccer.com: "There was plenty for the neutral to enjoy on Wednesday at Stade Saputo, as the Montreal Impact and D.C. United scored six goals between them in a frantic first half. A Luis Silva hat trick was the difference, however, as D.C. picked up the three points and moved to the top of the Eastern Conference (7-4-4, 25 pts.) with a 4-2 win on Wednesday."
- Ben Olsen, via dcunited.com: "The first half, in particular, had no shortage of goals and cards and physicality. I thought we were very aggressive in the first half. I thought we set a good tone. They came very aggressive as well. You saw that with all the goals, energy and the fouls. The second half became more cagey, and [Andrew] Dykstra bails us out there at 4-2 with the big save on the PK. But overall, I'm very pleased with the way the group has dealt with the first part of this season. Now it's time to exhale for a couple days and get back to work."
- Ben Olsen, via dcunited.com: On the meaning of first place in the Eastern Conference at this point in the season. "It's nice. It's nice to look at that, and I'm sure for the guys, they'll be extremely pleased to see their work being rewarded. But we've all been around this league for a while - these players and our staff. We understand that it's a long season, and we have to keep continuing to do the things that we've done well, and more importantly, we've got to get better. We've got to keep getting better and try to stay here and push the other teams in the Western Conference."
- Luis Silva, via dcunited.com: "I got the second start coming off an injury, and I was just really excited, really pumped, especially knowing that if we win this game we're going to be in first place. Overall, I think I was just excited for the team and for myself."
- Davy Arnaud, via dcunited.com: On what was said to Dykstra before Bernier's penalty. "I went over, I've seen Patrice take a lot of penalties, and I know that dykstra has watched him and Patrice is very good at them. Maybe it was a little bit of gamesmanship as much as anything else. I just told him that he likes to do the stutter step thing. Our keeper did very well, but Patrice, he's so good [on] those, it's not too often that he's going to miss."
Is D.C. United actually starting to show depth? On Wednesday night, Bill Hamid, Jeff Parke, and Eddie Johnson weren't in the lineup against the Impact, but the team still earned a multi-goal win on the road for the first time two years. Yes, there were two early uncharacteristic defensive miscues which squandered Luis Silva's early opening goal (created by Chris Rolfe's terrific turn and Fabian Espindola's tremendous through ball), but the team fought back from this deficit by tallying three straight goals from DeLeon and Silva--players who had not contributed up to their abilities this season. Getting goals and assists from these players adds a new dimension to the team in this season which has relied on Espindola in so many ways. Additionally, the ability to play from behind has been on display multiple times this season, and speaks well of the belief the team has in their ability to stay in games even when more than one starter isn't on the field.
If depth is indeed emerging on this year's D.C. United squad, it will be needed again in two weeks when the team takes on the league's best team, the Seattle Sounders. Davy Arnaud will be suspended due to yellow card accumulation, while Fabian Espindola could be facing a suspension for his extra curricular activities on the ankles of Felipe. And, with only three league games in the month of June, the game against the Sounders (the league's best road team) is setting up as the key for the month. Just like May's closing game against Sporting Kansas City defined last month, a loss will see D.C. United with a very average June (1-1-1, 4 points), while a draw will make the month acceptable (1-0-2, 5 points), and a win will make June another special month (2-0-1, 7 points).
And remember: on Saturday, June 28, RFK Stadium will see a match between the top two teams in this season's Supporters' Shield Standings! Too bad the league's national TV package doesn't have flex scheduling, since United vs. Sounders would be a great game for NBCSN or ESPN (instead, this game will be available nationally on MLS Live and MLS Direct Kick).
The Last Word:
As D.C. United sits first in the Eastern Conference and second in the Supporters' Shield Standings, the most remarkable thing is the narrative for the season isn't that they are a lucky team eaking out late results in remarkable fashion. Sure, the team wins in unconventional ways which defy traditional statistical analysis playing Benny-ball, but the real storyline is this team sits in first place in the East and easily could have up to eight more points if not for other teams' good fortune. We've documented the late-game goals (or a missed PK) which have resulted in these dropped points, but actually it's remarkable D.C. United has still achieved the heights it has given those dropped points.
While the team now gets a two-week break from league action, it will play again on Tuesday night, June 17, when it travels to the home of the Rochester Rhinos to open defense of the US Open Cup championship. Ben Olsen recently said how much he likes his players who normally occupy the 12-18 spots on the roster, and he spoke of his plan to play them in the US Open Cup. With the extended league break, however, and looming suspensions for Arnaud and possibly Espindola, Ben Olsen is in the position to put out the squad he thinks can best ensure a victory against the Rhinos. Will he rely on his depth, experiment with his starting lineup, or rely on his usual starters?
What do you think of D.C. United's depth? What's your take on the storyline defining the first half of the season? Who should play in the Open Cup match at Rochester?