Rather than try to break down D.C. United's 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire in any kind of coherent way, I'm just going to spill my thoughts on the Eastern Conference champs' clinching result onto the screen, and we'll see what happens. Anyway, highlights from game are above, and stray thoughts are below.
- Eddie Johnson was big when it mattered. I thought he was actually a little sloppier than he was against Houston, but he's buying into Benny's system, and he's got some fire that was missing earlier in the year. Add to that the increasing understanding he's developing with Fabian Espindola, and our DP striker could be hitting his stride at exactly the right time.
- Speaking of timing, Chris Pontius. On a scale from 1 to "Chris Wondolowski" that goal was an 11. Perfect hard run followed by a fade to the back post when the defender turned his head, great downward header on the finish.
- Nick DeLeon was so close to scoring - that kick save by Not Sean Johnson should be right alongside Hamid's kick save on the Save of the Week ballot come Monday. As impressive to me was watching NDL finish that run to get into scoring position and the recognition from EJ to feed Espindola who put Nicky in behind. DeLeon's first touch was perfect to get the line on the defender, and only a great save kept him off the scoresheet (and kept my 3-1 prediction from coming good... damn it all).
- NDL and Fabi also combined for some really strong work in the corner as they tried to kill the game off late on - Nicky held off a couple defenders, before he and Fabi somehow 1-2'ed their way around 3 red shirts and into space before winning a corner; the two of them have ball skills to burn.
- Concahamps notwithstanding, David Estrada is the new-and-improved Conor Doyle for the rest of this season. He's the guy Benny will throw on late to run and run and run and defend a lead from the front. Bonus: he's faster than Doyle, which will hopefully force opposing back lines to play slightly deeper than they would while pushing for a goal, making their all-out assault slightly less all-out. Or else hopefully Estrada gets in behind to create some havoc and put the lead out of reach.
- I wonder whether Birnbaum picked up a knock yesterday. He was a little shakier than usual (still a solid outing, though), and Kofi Opare was warming up for a long stretch in the second half. I'm not sure whether Benny wanted to have him ready in case Chicago threw crazy numbers forward or thought he might need to sub SB15 off.
I know I have a rep for sunshine and rainbows, but this United team is better than we had any right to expect 9 months ago. Enjoy it, boys and girls, because now is when we start getting our hopes up. #WeWantFive