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DC United defeat Kansas City Wizards, deliver first win of the season

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Curt Onalfo finally has his first MLS victory with United, proving why he's the coach and I'm not.
Curt Onalfo finally has his first MLS victory with United, proving why he's the coach and I'm not.

Thanks to some great individual performances from some unexpected sources, DC United is no longer winless in the MLS regular season.  Their 2-1 win over the Kansas City Wizards was a fair result that didn't even include the team falling asleep in the second half.  Well maybe a little bit after the 90 minute mark...

All of a sudden the match this Saturday that was supposed to be a battle of two winless teams is now a battle of two one-win teams following Dallas's defeat of the Dynamo last night.  DC United will need to continue the momentum from this victory down to Texas, and hopefully handle the Hoops like they did in the Open Cup play-in round last week.

Icing on the cake from our victory...  Did you know that we're only 4 points out of fourth place, and only 5 points out of second place in the Eastern Conference?  True story.  And with Kansas City and New England plummeting down the standings, it might not take much to catch up.

We discussed yesterday that it was time for DC United to change their tactics.  Well they did.  Read on for player rankings and more.

Danny Allsopp was brought to DC because he knows how to score.  He's been successful in every league he's played in, and he's played in quite a few.  There should never really have been any reason to doubt he could do it in MLS too.  The first goal was great work by Allsopp to aggressively fight off two defenders, but he got a bit lucky that the deflection didn't send the ball over.  The second goal was just a perfectly clean strike.

Ladies and gentlemen we have a goalkeeper competition.  Or do we?  Maybe its now Bill Hamid's job to lose?  He gained confidence throughout the match, looking totally comfortable for most of it.  He came out to punch or grab crosses when he needed to, and saved every shot he faced until a stoppage time garbage goal.  Too bad he couldn't get the shutout, but maybe that will give him motivation for the next one!

And a surprise entrant into the five spot is Rodney Wallace, who turned in the best performance by any DC defender yet this season.  He won just about every header on corner kicks that weren't handled by Hamid, and was solid all night against Ryan Smith and Chance Myers.  Fantastic game.  Shows what I know since I wanted to put him in central midfield.

All around good performances by Clyde Simms and Juan Manuel Pena.  We've looked like a different team since Simms returned from injury.  His quick decisive short passes in the midfield and great positioning are a huge benefit for us.  Pena also had probably his best game of the year.

If the only good thing that comes from acquiring Emilio is that our other forwards step up, then whatever we're paying him is totally worth it.  Because Adam Cristman looks like a changed man since Emilio was signed.  Cristman provided hard work off the ball the entire night, including the play that led to the second goal.

 I'm not yet entirely sold on Jordan Graye.  There were some moments, especially in the first half, where Graye would be a step too late to adjust to his man making a run.  He also had more giveaways than I'd like.  But ultimately, he did what United failed to do in their first match against KC: keep Ryan Smith off the scoreboard.

Another disappointing performance from Christian Castillo, whose trademark seems to be getting knocked off the ball, and then shrugging to the ref.  Ooh, or how about his tackle attempts that involve him first sitting on the ground and then meekly sticking out a leg.  Castillo didn't have a strong game here, but fortunately for him it didn't make much of a difference.

***

The key going forward though is consistency.  There were some individuals in this match who stood out to a great degree.  The question remains whether they can do it every week.  Wallace has had some ups and downs this season, but he'll be one of the best left backs in MLS if he can play like he did last night with consistency.  Obviously Danny Allsopp and Bill Hamid had excellent nights, but I need to see it more than once.  The only guy who I'm not concerned about playing consistently is Clyde Simms.  He will.

Saturday's road match against FC Dallas will be both a mental and physical test for this squad.  Mentally, they cannot let up.  DC was overconfident week 1 after a dominant preseason.  There shouldn't be any of that this week.  And physically, it will be a test to see if guys like Allsopp, Pena, Graye, and Simms are fit enough to play 180 minutes in one week.

What's good is that Curt Onalfo is finally starting to have multiple decent options at several positions.  I would expect Santino Quaranta to be back in the starting lineup in place of Boyzzz Khumalo on Saturday.  And of course there's also Andy Najar pushing everyone ahead of him for a spot on the field.

No one's going to call us a championship contender after beating this team.  But its really a relief to look at our record and not see a 0 anymore.