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The last word on D.C. United vs Chivas USA: In praise of 3-game winning streaks

Win three games in a row in MLS and you make a statement. Play well before and after such a streak and you create separation on your rivals. That's what's happening now for D.C. United.

Cubo Torres saw a lot of this on Sunday night.
Cubo Torres saw a lot of this on Sunday night.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

In Major League Soccer, a 3-game winning streak is enough to change the league's perception of a team.  That's because they're rare and normally result in significant movement up the standings.  D.C. United is now the proud owner of such a streak, but they didn't move that far up in the standings because they were already floating near the top.  It did, however, start to suck the hope out of the teams staring up at D.C. United from lower in the table.

Their Words:

- Steven Goffvia  "With a 3-1 victory over Chivas USA at RFK Stadium, D.C. United won its third straight to keep pace with first-place Sporting Kansas City in MLS's Eastern Conference and the Seattle Sounders in the Supporters' Shield race. United is a point back of SKC with one fewer match and four behind Seattle, which has a game in hand."

Ryan Keefer:  "[Sunday night's] D.C. United match pitted them against a Chivas USA squad who had been stealing some results on the road and was stingy on defense, though tonight D.C. were miserly with the goals against and had a minor offensive explosion of their own, with a 3-1 victory in front of 13,732 at RFK."

- Cliff Starkeyvia "When MLS announced the schedule before the season started, there couldn't have been many people circling a seemingly innocuous late July match between D.C. United and Chivas USA as a must-see game.  But due to blistering recent form by both teams, Sunday night's game at RFK Stadium could be seen by many MLS fans as a marquee match."

- Roman Stubbsvia  "[Eddie Johnson] could've easily finished with three goals; he acrobatically settled a service in front of the opponent's net early in the first half but made two moves and narrowly missed out on a shot. He floated behind the defense in the 42nd minute and anticipated a precise cross from defender Chris Korb, using the type of footwork that set up his penalty kick goal to send a header toward the net. It clanked off the crossbar. Johnson calmly returned downfield, a demeanor that suggested he would get the next one."

- Ben Olsen, via  "I thought the early goal was big. Their shape was pretty good in the early part of the game. It was tough to break down and once we got the PK, they had to open up. I thought we exploited them in a lot of different areas, wide, especially. I thought Eddie was fantastic today. I thought Silva was good, Rolfe really was trouble for them inside and then our outside backs really gave them a host of trouble."

- Chivas USA defender Carlos Bocanegravia  On thoughts on the game. "I thought D.C. did a good job today, passing and moving. They got their fullbacks into the attack very well and made it difficult for us. You know, it was a tough game for us....I don't think we played very well in general. I don't think we played one of our better games tonight. And then, like I said, D.C. did a good job as well, so that combination did not end in such a good result for us. Yeah, but credit to D.C., you know, they came out and they played well."

Ben Olsenvia  On Eddie's performance and people starting to notice his versatility. "I'm not so concerned with them, but I think it's important for Eddie to have people behind him. That's not only our staff and our organization, which has been completely on his side. It's important for the fans to get behind him because in a lot of ways he's as good as it gets in this league. He has an ability to score, hold the ball up, he's technically sound, has good pace. He's as well rounded a forward as you can get in this league and now it's nice to see him touch the net a little bit. He does a lot of scoring in the summer traditionally, and we hope the goals keep coming. Tonight I thought he's worked as hard as he's ever worked on the defensive end for us. Part of that's scoring goals, you score goals and you're a little bit more energized as a forward."

Eddie Johnsonvia  "I feel like the team and I, we're just getting familiar with our understanding on the field. I feel like it has been frustrating, now I'm trying to create that understanding and those partnerships on the field. We all have individual goals and clearly one of mine was the World Cup, and you go one, two, three, four, five games without scoring and you start to put a lot more pressure on yourself. Once the World Cup was behind me, I've been really focused on my teammates and really trying to create something special."

Bill Hamid, via On the team's recent success. "The chemistry, the bond, the fight, the hunger, the mentality, it seems like a lot is going well. But, you know, knock on wood we want to just keep on going and not let this get to our head and not be satisfied, to continue being hungry and continue getting points."

- Fred Karlvia  "[Bill Hamid's] efforts have been beyond instrumental in helping DCU regain their form and are now leading the Eastern Conference playoff race. Hamid has exceptional talent and now appears to be combining it with massive insight and smarts that clearly place him among MLS' elite goalkeeper talents. Put this dude on both the MLS All-Star Squad and the USMNT because he's clearly able to contribute. Now."

Ben Olsenvia  On the Fulham game coming up. "I'm looking to get guys minutes. We still have a bunch of games coming up and we still have a few guys who aren't 90 minutes fit because they've been on the bench and they haven't been going down to Richmond, so this is a game to utilize those guys, and get them up to speed because we're going to need them in the next month or two. I'll also use some starters and mix it up. It's good; I always enjoyed these friendlies as a player and I think the guys are excited about it. Our minds are on that but more on Toronto the following Wednesday."

My Words:

It was obvious D.C. United gave Chivas USA all the respect a team riding a 4-game winning streak is due, since the Black-and-Red clearly showed up to play on Sunday night.  While the first 20 minutes saw both teams make some sloppy passes and touches, D.C. United's defense was particularly sharp from the beginning by limiting Chivas' preferred counterattack, and neutralizing Erick Torres throughout the game.  The offense, for the second week running, was sparked by Chris Rolfe's dangerous play in the penalty box which resulted in Eddie Johnson's second penalty kick goal in as many games.

Speaking of EJ, he looked dangerous at numerous times during the game, and he created the second goal by knocking down a set piece to Perry Kitchen who was making a secondary run at the top of the box and then buried his lefty shot into the goal.  The final goal was created by a nice a buildup that saw an excellent overall Chris Korb performance rewarded with an assist on a nice through ball to Luis Silva that put him in on goal to net the team's third for the night.

The entire team has picked up its performance since the injury to Fabian Espindola, and has surprisingly put together it's best winning streak of the season with it's most important offensive player on the sideline.  During the last three games, all wins, the team has scored seven goals (while conceding only three), with tallies from Nick DeLeon (assist by Luis Silva), Perry Kitchen (LEWIS NEAL!), Eddie Johnson (PK created by Chris Rolfe), Luis Silva (Chris Rolfe), Eddie Johnson again (PK by Chris Rolfe again), Perry Kitchen (Eddie Johnson and Chris Rolfe), and Luis Silva (Chris Korb).  That's a lot of Rolfe, Silva, Johnson, and Kitchen in the last sentence.  And, if the team can continue to get consistent scoring output from these players while successfully re-incorporating Fabian Espindola back into the team, they will really have elevated themselves for the second half push.

The Last Word:

Let's not overlook what D.C. United has achieved over the last three games.  Winning three in a row, with two games on the road, and all without their most productive player, is a rare and noteworthy accomplishment, even for a team that has been as consistent as United this season.  Ironically, D.C. United's last 3-game winning streak was Sept. 15-23, 2012, and it was cemented with a 1-0 win against Chivas USA at RFK Stadium.

So far during 2014, only eight of MLS's 19 teams have put together winning streaks of three or more matches.  And each time it happened, that team became one of the "hot teams" in MLS (at least for a moment).

Team Winning Streak Length Dates
Columbus Crew 3 8 - 29 Mar
FC Dallas 3 22 Mar - 5 Apr
Seattle Sounders 5 12 Apr - 7 May
New England Revolution 5 26 Apr - 24 May
Real Salt Lake 3 3 - 17 May
Seattle Sounders 3 31 May - 21 Jun
Chivas USA 4 28 Jun - 12 Jul
D.C. United 3 5 Jul - present
Sporting Kansas City 3 12 Jul - present

Unfortunately for them, most teams can't sustain the advantages that earning nine points in three games brings to a team in MLS.  Columbus and Dallas struggled mightily after putting together early-season 3-game winning streaks (although Dallas has made a comeback of late), while New England and Chivas put together 5-game and 4-game winning streaks respectively that are notable in that the rest of their seasons bear no resemblance to that level of quality.  And RSL's season took a turn for the worse following their 3-game winning streak.  Only three teams, Seattle, D.C. United, and Sporting, have put together consistent seasons which included a 3-game (or better) winning streak--and not surprisingly, these are the three teams sitting atop the Supporters' Shield standings.

D.C. United now has a break until its next league game on July 30th against Toronto FC at RFK Stadium (friendly against Fulham notwithstanding).  If United can maintain the general level of results they've had since Week 3 of the season going forward, this 3-game winning streak (which will hopefully stretch longer) will have allowed D.C. United to put a significant separation on the rest of the Eastern Conference (with the exception of Sporting).  A few more wins, and teams at the bottom of the East will quickly find themselves with no meaningful hope of catching the Black-and-Red.

It's been a great season for D.C. United, and these past three games have been their best stretch of all.

How far can this winning streak stretch?  How will Fabian Espindola re-entering the squad affect this team?  On a scale of merely awesome to immensely awesome, just how awesome is Chris Rolfe?