This is the kind of game that I thought we would see pretty often this season.
DC United have plenty of young and offensively talented players who know how to score. And finally in this match it showed. But we also knew going into the season that our team would occassionally struggle on defense. Our ancient center back pairing and rookie goalkeeper were exposed by Chivas USA in this one.
Two shots on goal. Two goals.
Fortunately for us though, that wasn't enough.
We didn't have a whole lot going in our favor this offseason. Rather than bringing in a pile of new signings, we set out to rely on the continous improvement of guys like Santino Quaranta, Chris Pontius, and Rodney Wallace to thrust us back up the table. That didn't look like much of a possibility in the first sixth of this season. But now it's starting to look a bit more realistic.
The MVP of this match was quite obviously 17-year old Andy Najar. He wears number 14 and plays on the right wing with a lot of tenacity. His tireless work rate is something all players could learn from. And his ankles are just fine.
Two players who did well defensively and set up one goal each were Rodney Wallace and Clyde Simms. Wallace has really looked like a different player lately from where he started this season. It's a good thing that Curt Onalfo chose to stick with Wallace at left back when other commentators were calling for him to be moved to the midfield.
Two of our most active players tonight were Santino Quaranta and Danny Allsopp. Quaranta was the creative force behind many chances, and finally seems to be working his way into a withdrawn forward #10 sort of role. Quaranta earned the winning penalty kick, and probably should have been awarded another PK earlier in the match. Both players could have done better with their finishing though, as each hit the ball straight at Zach Thornton far too often. Allsopp did manage to come within a half inch of a goal as he struck the inside of the post in the 49th minute, but it wasn't until Adam Cristman came on for Allsopp that we managed to pull level with a goal by the substitute.
Newcomer Stephen King was modestly impressive in his first league start for United. He didn't do anything that stood out tremendously, either good or bad. This can be considered a significant upgrade over Kurt Morsink, who makes you want to punch him whenever you see his face.
On Chivas USA's second goal, Maykel Galindo was able to beat Jordan Graye and Juan Manuel Pena pretty much right up the middle. Our defenders had played fairly well up to that point, with Graye in particular getting involved offensively. But this goal should not have been allowed to happen.
His extra time penalty kick goal does not let Carey Talley off the hook. On the opening goal, Talley had about a yard on Justin Braun, but he lost ground in his run, and was never able to get a touch on the ball, or even stick enough of his shoulder into Braun to make his shot very difficult. Still, it was nice of the team to allow Talley to take the PK so he could score a goal in what might be his last ever MLS start. It's also easy to think that Bill Hamid could have done better on either goal. Two goals on two shots on goal is unacceptable, and he should know it.
I saw lots of positive signs in this match. Most of it starts out wide. Just one week ago, you could say that our team's biggest weakness was its wings. Christian Castillo and Thabiso Khumalo were terrible for the past several weeks. But due to a combination of injuries to our starters and Onalfo's hard-headed-ness, they maintained their starting positions.
This week with Pontius and Najar on the wings, this position has become maybe our biggest strength.
Another great thing about having skilled and energetic wingers is that it allows Wallace and Graye to have enough confidence to come forward, knowing that there is a midfielder playing in front of him who will help cover if necessary.
Following two consecutive 3-2 victories, DC United will now get set to take on Real Salt Lake in two consecutive matches. The Open Cup match on Wednesday night will allow United to rest some of its starters, as our lineup is likely to include names like Perkins, James, Rice, Moreno, and Cristman.