Take a look at the starting lineup that D.C. United used tonight. Does it look familiar? It should. Its pretty much the starting 11 that we expected at the beginning of the year. With the possible exception of Maicon Santos starting ahead of Hamdi Salihi, this is essentially the lineup that we expected United to use most of the season.
Danny Cruz and Nick DeLeon won our hearts, and then returned to the bench. Emiliano Dudar soared up our depth chart at center back, and then returned to the bench. Joe Willis stole a starting job from Bill Hamid while he was away, and then he returned to the bench.
So much has changed amongst the United starting lineup so far this season, that its interesting and somewhat exhilirating to see so many players from our projected starting 11 back in our starting 11 once again. Guys keep challenging each other, but the best players still rise to the top.
Those players turned in a dominating performance tonight at RFK Stadium, defeating the Montreal Impact 3-0 in a game that was never really close despite the first goal for United coming just before halftime. D.C. played like a team that has won six straight games at home, and like a team that is at the top of its conference. That's where United currently sits, and that's where they belong.
United's first goal came at a time where fans were starting to get a bit nervous that we'd find ourselves with more possession and better chances but still a stalemate going into halftime. One thing is for sure - the Impact read the scouting report on Chris Pontius. They know all about The Pontius Special, his patented finishing move. They knew exactly what to expect when he is playing left midfield and gets the ball around the top corner of the box. He cuts in to the middle to his stronger right foot and then he shoots! Oh wait. Woops. No, this time he cut back again to his left instead of shooting straight away with the right. And he still managed to finish towards the far post.
The second goal came early in the second half, and it came from the foot of a familiar felon. Branko Boskovic's deadly free kick service continues to earn dividends for United, as he placed the ball right onto the diving head of Robbie Russell for the 2-0 lead. But two guys who won't find their names on the score sheet also contributed to the goal: Andy Najar, who won the free kick opportunity with his impressive work rate, and Maicon Santos, who picked Russell's marker to free up the veteran defender (seriously, watch the replay again and keep your eyes on Santos).
Salihi finished the game off with a third goal as the match entered stoppage time. Some may call it a typical poacher's goal, as Salihi put away the rebound of a Nick DeLeon shot, but I won't be one of them. Salihi created the initial chance, so he deserved to finish it.
I'd regret not mentioning the defense as well though. Because despite all the great attacking players that I've mentioned, the Man Of The Match tonight may have been Dejan Jakovic, who seemed to interrupt every chance and half-chance that the Impact conjured. Jakovic was great, as was Perry Kitchen, who returned to his usual excellent form after a surprisingly disappointing performance in New York.
3-0 was a fair final result for United. More importantly though, this isn't a game where we come away with three points while counting ourselves lucky, like we did in Philadelphia, although its possible thatis the worst starting forward in MLS. He's this year's Danny Allsopp. This is a game that D.C. dominated throughout. Home field domination is exactly what we expect from this team, and this lineup.