Looks like D.C. United has figured out how to play a man-up.
A week after squandering a 90th-minute lead with a man-advantage in Columbus, the Black and Red thoroughly punished 10-man FC Dallas Saturday, 4-1, in a relentless offensive showing. By the time Michel added insult to injury time, in fact—earning his side’s second red card of the night in the 92nd minute—it had long been over at RFK.
After its latest win, the club’s third of the season, United is now undefeated in its last five league outings. And if you ask Bobby Boswell, at least, the key to this recent success might just be playing angry.
"There’s some pissed-off guys during the week," the centerback said Saturday. "Some guys you almost have to calm down before the game, because they’re too amped. It’s a group of guys that have had success in the past in one way or another.
"The guys who were here were one game away from MLS Cup two years ago, and a lot of the guys that have come in have been on successful teams with winning mentalities," he added. "So yeah, you can call it a mental thing, but it’s more of just going out there and doing it. And we seem to be doing it right now."
FC Dallas hadn’t lost a match until April 12 against Seattle, and it had been sitting atop the Western Conference at 5-1-1 before its trip to the District turned into a trip through the buzzsaw.
But in the early going, it looked like the visitors, who had topped Houston by the same 4-1 scoreline April 5, were about to use Saturday as another exhibition of their own offensive prowess. A beautiful sequence in the 13th minute saw Fabian Castillo chip a ball into the box to Blas Perez, who teed up Mauro Diaz at the top of the box, before Diaz beat beat Christian Fernandez badly to slot home the road opener.
A sharp Davy Arnaud volley was DCU’s first real threat of the night, but Arnaud would indirectly help United get on the board shortly thereafter, when he became the beneficiary of Zach Loyd’s studs-up challenge in the 39th. The sending-off immediately shifted the run of play more in the favor of the home side, and Fabian Espindola would finish off a perfectly curled Eddie Johnson cross in stoppage time to equalize.
"I thought we managed the game well once the red card happened," coach Ben Olsen said. "To get the goal right before the half was a big boost."
Or, as Boswell put it in one of the bigger understatements of the season, "We worked on [man-up situations] in practice this week, and I think it showed."
Johnson was subbed off in the 51st minute for Conor Doyle—just as a precaution, Olsen noted—and, oddly enough, the floodgates opened from there. In the 60th minute, Doyle had a volley parried away by Chris Seitz from close range, but Boswell cleaned it up with a strong left-footed strike. Perry Kitchen just barely managed to jump out of the way—"Thankfully it didn’t hit me," Kitchen said afterward—and United finally had what by that point seemed to be an imminent lead.
Four minutes later, another defender, this time Sean Franklin, opened his own 2014 scoring account—with his deft, one-timed toe-poke just slipping past Seitz to double DCU’s lead.
"[Espindola] put the ball in a great spot and I was just trying to get a flick on it, " Franklin said. "It’s one of those things where you flick the ball’s right there and it goes in, but I give Fabi credit for his two goals and his assist tonight."
Espindola’s second goal, of course, would come just five minutes later off a feed from Chris Rolfe, and the RFK crowd—a season-best 11,172—cheered that latest blow just as it had the first three. All told, in a blowout that saw the returns of Bill Hamid, Luis Silva and Chris Korb from injury, the final marked FC Dallas’ most lopsided loss since a 3-0 defeat to Real Salt Lake in July 2013.
"All season, you kind of add up goals," Olsen said. "Playoff teams have a certain number of goals."
After another angry win Saturday, Olsen and Co. can now add four more.