D.C. United did it. The Black and Red survived seven MLS matches in the month of May and made it to the top of the Eastern Conference. A break is needed, but there is still work to be done with Tuesdays U.S, Open Cup match on the road against the Richmond Kickers.
Forget a trip to Disney World; United has to wait to fully exhale. United has won two Open Cups and would like to get back to the business of adding to the trophy cabinet. Their opponent the Richmond Kickers made it all the way to the semi-finals of last years competition and beat two MLS team on the road in the process.
You can hear in my voice, a fatigued Dwayne De Rosario said after Saturdays 3-2 win over New England. I am absolutely tired. Its been a lot of games in a short period of time. We withstand the demand that was put on us, and thankfully we have the depth of every guy that is ready to step in and make a difference.
United earned its first three game winning streak since 2008 on the strength of two goals from defenders Brandon McDonald and Dejan Jakovic. Against the Revolution United did squander a two-goal lead, but then was bailed out by Maicon Santos who returned from a calf injury and scored the winning goal to add to his team-leading tally of 8 goals for the season.
I thought we needed to get hold of the ball a little more, said United head coach Ben Olsen. Im looking to get Maicon in the game for the reasons we saw. The guy can score goals and he can hold the ball up. So now you have Maicon holding balls up, making it difficult for their center backs, and you have Dwayne De Rosario in the midfield who always helps us with possessions.
The return of Santos to Uniteds rotation was encouraging with managing injuries the focus for United. Jakovic also was back from an ankle injury and scored his first career MLS goal. Rookie midfielder Nick De Leon also returned from a hamstring injury to give United the strength in numbers in necessary to get through Tuesday.
United goes into this Open Cup match with confidence. Over the last month midfielder Branko Boskovic has unveiled the form that made him a designated player in the first place before being slowed by injuries. Fellow DP Hamdi Salihi has also begun to deliver as advertised with four goals.
Its unbelievable, said Boskovic. My two seasons here, and every time was up and down, and now its the first time we look like a real team. We have a good group and good atmosphere, but we need to continue to win.
It is not a United team that is complacent or claiming league title in May. The 3-2 win over the Revolution on Saturday was a nice reward for a lot of hard work, but it also highlighted the word that still needs to be done. There is a story developing with United, but whether through injuries or inexperience the picture is far from complete.
I want to play a different way, and I wish we wouldve been a little sharper, but again, Im looking at the body of three wins at home, which we havent done at this club since June 2008, Olsen added after Saturdays win This is positive stuff, and Im not downplaying that. Again, Im maybe just being a little negative; Im a little unfulfilled with that game.
The translation of Olsens post-match comments demonstrates how much he believes in this team. Olsen was confident back in January that he had the players to work with. Three months into a MLS campaign Olsens belief has been confirmed. This United team has talent and perhaps of more importance is able to adapt.
Now United will have to adapt one more time before truly getting a break. The Kickers pride themselves on begin giant-killers and are 4-4-1 al time against United. In their last meeting with meaning, United emerged with a 2-0 win over the Kickers in the 2010 U.S. Open Cup.
The current Kickers team is in sixth place in the 11-team USL Pro table. In midfield the Kickers feature David Bulow who last year notched his 14th goal in U.S. Open Cup history against Sporting Kansas City in 2011 to become the tournaments all-time leading scorer. Christopher Agorsor notched four goals last week including two in their U.S. Open Cup second round over Aegean Hawks.