With last night's 3-0 shutout win over Toronto FC, D.C. United has now won four in a row, tied with Sporting Kansas City for the longest win streak in the league currently, and their success is almost harkening back to the late Nowak-early Soehn level of giddiness when it comes to the club. If the attendance last night is any indication, buzz would seem to be stirred.
- Steven Goff, via :washingtonpost.com "At the end of a prolific month and beginning of a rigorous stretch, D.C. United looked every bit like a legitimate MLS contender Wednesday night in recording its fourth consecutive victory."
- Ryan Keefer: "Despite an early first half goal from Eddie Johnson from a cross by Perry Kitchen, the first half found D.C. United absorbing much of a Toronto FC attack, discouraging considering Toronto played a competitive match over the weekend... [b]ut the second half proved to be where D.C. made their money tonight, shutting out Toronto 3-0 in front of 16,171 at RFK Stadium."
- Cliff Starkey, :via Ives: "Exceptional goalkeeping by Bill Hamid led the way for D.C. United to a 3-0 victory over Eastern Conference rival Toronto FC at RFK Stadium. Goals from Eddie Johnson, Chris Rolfe, and an own goal by Nick Hagglund ensured that D.C. United remain in the thick of the race for the Eastern Conference title."
- Ben Olsen, (On the result): "It was a 3-0 win against one of the better teams in this league. They had some defenders out, and they had a game a few days ago. I think some fatigue set in for them but overall for us, I thought it was a really good night, in particular the second half."
- Toronto FC Coach Ryan Nelsen (On the result.): "Well, unfortunately we didn’t win in either box. We had the opportunities to score the goals, we didn’t take them and then we had to defend our box and we didn’t defend it very well, and goals change games. I think if we got that first one, with the chances we had, it would’ve been a whole different game, but we didn’t. They took theirs, and we didn’t take ours."
- Ben Olsen, (On recovering quickly for Sunday's matchup with Houston): "It was end to end, and when you play this team, from an energy level standpoint it’s always taxing. The quick turnaround, going to Houston, will be tough, but we’re going to be tested at some point with our depth. We’re going to rely on guys in the next month or two that haven’t seen a lot of minutes so that’s a good thing. I’m looking forward to getting those guys in, to test them in real games and that might start with Houston."
- Chris Rolfe (On thoughts about pieces coming together): "You know, there are teams that I have been on, that throughout the whole season we don’t ever gel. And we can continue to put new guys in and take guys out, and everybody has been doing a great job and the combination of players we have has been fantastic."
- Bill Hamid, via dcunited.com: 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."
- Mitchell Tierney, via Waking the Red: "Even when they were winning matches and writing positive headlines earlier in the season, Toronto FC always seemed to have an asterisks next to their name. While the media in general tends to be hypercritical, especially of a team who have had a lot to criticise since their inception, the underlying problems were essentially the same match to match. But the positive results continued to take place, because the 100 million dollars did buy something: a mask for this team's deeper problems.."
D.C. United did what was expected of them last night in beating a team who was on short rest, shutting out two marquee designated players in Michael Bradley and Jermaine Defoe. In the process, they made the latter start toss his shoes and shin guards at Nelsen, doing a good impression of Richie Tenenbaum as he was subbed off in the second half with the result well in hand. Credit the result of Steven Birnbaum's work in yet again impressing when it comes to marking one of the League's top strikers out of a game, Erick Torres' garbage time PK notwithstanding. Nick DeLeon is finding his game more often than he is losing it, and Eddie Johnson is finding space and scoring goals of the non-penalty kick variety. Things appear to be going well.
That said, the team and hopefully the consensus of fans are realizing that the work begins in earnest, and starts this coming Sunday. Let us take a look at things using the infinite wisdom of Moses Malone and his soundbite that served as the rallying cry of the Philadelphia 76ers march to the NBA title.
The 'first fo':
At Houston (8/3), at Real Salt Lake (8/9), vs. Colorado (8/17), vs. Waterhouse FC (8/20). The first two games are approximately 3,500 miles in travel, against two teams that D.C. has not beaten in their current home in League play (but a good excuse as any to bring this up again), so there are some demons to vanquish. Still, while last night's game was good, the next two, perhaps three, are going to be interesting to see how Olsen juggles maintaining the pace the Sporks are setting with getting some of the younger players some run. And we have not discussed D.C.'s first foray into the CONCACAF Champions League in years yet.
The 'second fo':
At Sporting Kansas City (8/23), at Los Angeles (8/27), vs. New York (8/31), at Vancouver (9/6). Two West Coast trips, this 'fo' going almost 7,000 miles, 1 against the East leader, another against a West team rising up the standings devouring all of their games in hand positively, and another West team on turf where they are normally strong and in Pedro Morales, have a possible Best XI player. Oh, and some apparent rivalry game with a team from New Jersey.
The 'last fo':
At New York (9/10), at Waterhouse FC (9/16), at Chicago (9/20), vs. Tauro FC (9/24). Only about 2,500 miles, though more than half comprise the trip to Kingston for the second CCL game. Thankfully the Metros should be going through the same grind at this point, and Chicago may or may not be still in the pack for the last playoff spot in the East. And hopefully in the 3rd CCL game, a result from that may mean cinching the group stage at that point. So yeah, lots of stuff going on.
The Last Word:
We have devoted past pixels about the August/September grind that D.C. United has faced and even in segments, the task is daunting, long before playoff games unfold. Thankfully, there is a sense of self-awareness around the team and what it would like to accomplish, in no small feat due to veterans who have gone through the grind before. And as the Gospel according to Mo goes, so goes D.C. United.