D.C. United's 'win and in' mission on Sunday was more than accomplished, scoring 3 goals in 18 minutes en route to a 3-1 win over New York City FC, which led to a playoff berth for their third consecutive season, and 4 in the last 5 years under the Managing General Partner Jason Levien era. I'll keep repeating those numbers for no reason whatsoever.
Well, not NO reason exactly, I have to have a reason to segue to the vote results, right? Right!
Bill Hamid: 8 | Community 7.87
8 saves, his busiest effort on the year since July at Real Salt Lake, and save for a penalty kick cheapie in the last fifth of the game, was en route to his second shutout in three games. Had a nice save on Diego Martinez, and a more active save on Jack Harrison that could have resulted in a first half goal. Of the 3 goals given up in his last four games, you have a PK goal, a free kick and a 1v1 after the attacker smoked his defense, so it seems like he's getting back to Bill form.
Nick DeLeon: 7.5 | Community: 7.47
Had a shot, 25 of 32 passing, 7 of 12 in the attacking third (numbers look a touch better with the two from his own half removed), and a developing chemistry with Sam, as his 9 to Sam were the third most successful passing combo in Black-and-Red. Defensively, 6 recoveries, 5 of 6 successful tackles, 4 interceptions, 4 recoveries. It was a most definite improved appearance from NDL than the previous time.
Steve Birnbaum: 7 | Community: 7.4
Weird that Birnbaum was substandard in the air Sunday (2 of 6 aerials won), along with 2 clearances, a blocked shot, interception, tackle and 6 recoveries. Had 14 of 23 passes made, including a chance creator, and 3 shots, 1 on target. Said shot total is the 4th time he's had 3 or more shots in a game this year (the team hasn't lost in those games), after doing it once in the two and a half seasons before then. Dude is a space creator, that's for sure.
Bobby Boswell: 7.5 (Captain) | Community: 7.97
Had the goal (which frankly you could have seen coming when the ball was in the air), and his 3 shots, all on goal, were as many as he had in his past 8 games, and had 22 successful passes on 29 attempts. Had 5 recoveries, 4 clearances, a tackle and an interception, and did that unbelievable cross that went for naught. What if this new formation has masked his deficiencies and extended his career somehow?
Taylor Kemp: 7 | Community 7.14
Generally it's a good game when Taylor Kemp is involved offensively. He did have a shot, but more importantly was involved in 3 of the top 5 passing combinations for DC (to Nyarko, from Vincent, to Vincent) on the day, and connected on 35 of 46 passing, including 10 of 14 attacking third efforts. 7 recoveries, 5 successful tackles, 3 interceptions and 3 clearances, and how he does in the postseason will be a biggie.
Rob Vincent: 7.5 | Community: 7.4
37 of 48 passes connected (10 of 18 in the last third), including a chance creator, and also waltzed by Andrea Pirlo for that third goal. 5 recoveries defensively, along with 7 interceptions, 2 clearances and a tackle. Had himself a game Sunday.
Lloyd Sam: 7.5 (off 76') | Community: 7.3
12 of 18 passing, including a chance created, and assists on the first 2 goals, both of which were spot on. Had a recovery, a clearance and a tackle defensively and found himself deeper on the right more often than in past outings (at least to lying eyes). With assist #2, set a new personal record in assists since coming to MLS (10) spread across his time with DCU and the New York Red Bulls, though he's gotten more with less playing time here. Winky face emoji.
Jared Jeffrey: 7 | Community: 6.8
A Josh Saunders tip to the crossbar prevented what would have been a damned pretty good goal for Jeffrey, but he'd take 33 of 39 (8 of 11 in the attacking third) with a chance creator instead. Or he could take 10 recoveries, 5 interceptions, 4 tackles and a clearance. It would be nice to have a 6 and/or an 8 of higher caliber but at the very least, Jeffrey and Vincent do make the decision to get someone while letting Marcelo Sarvas go (for example) a little easier.
Luciano Acosta: 7 (off 80') | Community: 7.94
Given a secondary assist on the first goal, bumping his total this year to 11, bringing him into a tie with...Andrea Pirlo. 22 of 31 passing otherwise (11 of 14 in the attacking third), with a key pass to go with it. Had 7 recoveries, 7 attempted tackles (4 successful) and an interception in his end. A quiet night scoresheet wise but helped complementary pieces get in better position, and if that's the mean for Lucho, I'm fine with it.
Patrick Nyarko: 7 | Community: 7.6
Didn't get an assist on the first goal though I feel like he should have. I'll take 27 of 39 passing (13 of 23 in the attacking third) with a key pass nevertheless, along with 7 recoveries, 3 clearances, 3 tackles and 2 interceptions. Played a little further upfield and in his normal role interchanging with Acosta and Kemp, just like we're used to.
Patrick Mullins: 8 (off 85') (MOTM) | Community: 8.2 (MOTM)
Scored the first goal, assisted on the third, almost had an early start before those two things with a poke just over the bar in the first half, and wore Pirlo's pegs in his leg for a minute in the second half. Had 8 of 15 passing, including 4 of 9 in the attacking third, and that goal was his only shot on goal. Adding onto this:
Among players with 15+ shots,Patrick Mullins is 3rd in expected goals per 96 minutes this season. #DCvNYC #DCU pic.twitter.com/W2u4GR5UBk— AnalysisEvolved (@AnalysisEvolved) October 16, 2016
If we're filtering things even further by minutes played, Mullins is among some MLS elite in that number.
Lamar Neagle: 6 (on 76') | Community: 6.7
1 of 2 passing, a tackle and an interception in brief work. Has one more chance to set a new single season high in goals for himself Sunday.
Julian Buescher: 6.5 (on 80') | Community: 6.492
7 of 9 connected passes, 3 tackles in his own end, and quickly becoming a pro at the tackle from behind.
Kennedy Igboananike: 6 (on 85') | Community: 5.2
Connected on all 4 passes, and had a chance creator in a cup of coffee.
David Villa garnered more than half of the votes and was your Man of the Match:
Alan Kelly - Referee:
Kelly, who refereed in the Champions League, got a score of 4.73.
There's a lot to like about what D.C. United has done in the near 4 months since adopting their 4-1-4-1 formation and defeating the New England Revolution 2-0 on June 25. Things were slowly starting to come together with a last-minute draw at Real Salt Lake, then the addition of Sam (July 7) and Mullins (July 20) were the final pieces in the moment, with the latter being the rug that tied the room together. And in the 15 games D.C. played, once Sam and eventually Mullins were worked into the roster, D.C. has only lost 2, earning 1.8 points per game, 2.2 goals per game for, 1.5 goals per game against. That run of GPGF would lead the lead over complete season, and that PPG over a full season overshadows current Supporters' Shield leaders FC Dallas.
And now, with another playoff berth secured, a small thing of concern within those 15 games: 9 have been against playoff teams as of this writing, and D.C. has won only 2. Now, it just so happens that they were the last two, against NYCFC and at Toronto FC, the second and third place teams in the East, one of whom DCU may possibly face. Also somewhat positively is that while road games have been a burden on this team, once we get to the playoffs, a road draw, with a goal or two scored, can do nothing but boost the Black-and-Red's chances against whomever they face in a second leg, should a second leg persist.
It's nice that D.C. are humming right now, sitting on their first four-game winning streak in two years, but we're getting to the second season where things like poor goalkeeper positioning tend to burn a team, and while all this scoring has been fun, one has to think at some point the zone is going to be something that D.C. just suddenly falls out of, just as quickly as they fell into it.
Nevertheless, there are going to be five faces in D.C. jerseys that will experience their first playoff series under Ben Olsen, and hopefully they tackle the second season the way former DCU player Eddie Johnson sees them tackling their first one:
@dcunited ain't playing no games— Eddie Johnson (@eddie_johnson7) October 16, 2016