Games like D.C. United’s 5-0 demolishing of Real Salt Lake on Saturday don’t come around very often. Sure, it was aided by a (correct) VAR-aided penalty and a couple of (also correct) red cards, but United took full advantage of the calls to run up the score — exactly what a team with trophy aspirations does in that situation.
So, what do we know about first-place United today that we didn’t before kickoff?
Wayne Rooney hat tricks are damn fun
Okay, we probably knew this beforehand. But we hadn’t seen it firsthand with him in Black-and-Red, and now we have!
Wazza hit three very different goals against RSL, first fooling Nick Rimando from the spot before staying onside when Leonardo Jara forced a turnover in the press and finally running the line to tap in a square ball from Junior Moreno. (Shouts to Luciano Acosta on that third goal: Lucho had every single player on the field going where he wanted them on that one, and it was a thing of beauty.)
Rooney has been nothing short of incredible since joining from Everton last summer. I marked what seemed to be the optimistic end of the spectrum when he was signed, predicting six goals and seven assists in the back half of 2018.
Now, like Sebastian Salazar before me, I’d like to apologize to Wayne. I underestimated him.
Thankfully, the 33-year-old is showing no signs of slowing down. Enjoy it — enjoy him, United fans.
Junior Moreno can ball out
When a defensive midfielder — especially the guy who normally sits deeper in the double-pivot — gets a couple of assists and is creating chances like a number 10... it’s a fun thing. That was Junior Moreno on Saturday.
Between Moreno and Russell Canouse, United’s central midfield this year has been better patrolled than the White House grounds, and their dominance in that zone is a big part of why the Black-and-Red have yet to concede a goal through three games.
Now they’re dropping dimes and dribbling fools, and this is a totally other thing.
Swagger is fun. This year could be real, real fun.
Ruthlessness is a virtue
It’s weird to be worried about the playoff format in March. But the new single-game knock-out format really does make every point that much more vital.
Nobody is guaranteed a home game, and only the top team in each conference will enjoy a bye. All of which makes running up the score when you have the opportunity good and important.
Obviously, that’s exactly what los Capitalinos did Saturday night. Up two goals and a man, United forced turnovers in midfield and pushed in transition. Up three goals and two men, they did it even more and higher.
When the supporters in the Chico Stand started chanting “We want six!”, it seemed like the team wanted it even more.
United hasn’t always been able to punish teams for these kinds of mistakes, and the same can be said for nearly any MLS team. D.C. used the ball in possession and killed RSL in transition.
Not for nothing, but it wasn’t completely unlike Tata Martino’s version of Atlanta United — you remember, the one that lifted MLS Cup last year.
Those extra goals for and goal differential might just matter for seeding come October.
Extra Thing: No piece on this game would be complete without the requisite gawking at Lucas Rodriguez’s goal. Take a bow, Titi.
Take to the comments to let us know what you’re taking away from Saturday night.