Hey guys, guess who’s in first place?
D.C. United, that’s who.
United rounded out a three-game homestand Saturday evening with a victory over the New England Revolution. After taking the full nine points from those three matches, the black-and-red find themselves in sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of New York and two points ahead of Kansas City.
While they’ve played a couple of games more than some of the teams chasing them, United’s point total is still something to marvel at. United haven’t found themselves in first place this deep into a season since the summer of 2009, and the three-game winning streak is their longest in league play since 2008.
If I sound like a cheerleader right now, you’ll have to excuse me. This team has been very, very fun to watch lately.
How different is this team from last years? After jumping out to a 2-0 halftime lead on goals from Brandon McDonald and Dejan Jakovic, United quickly gave up its lead in a five-minute span early in the second half. DCU’s 2011 squad would’ve given up the ghost at that point.
“This year our guys have been so good at keeping themselves composed and know that it is going to come,” McDonald said after the match. “For me, I wasn’t worried about the two goals.”
And neither was United striker Maicon Santos, who came off the bench and nailed the game-winner in the 61st minute. A year ago, the idea that United would be able to bring their leading scorer in as a sub would have been laughable. But with options like Hamdi Salihi, Dwayne De Rosario, Chris Pontius and a game-fit Branko Bošković in attack, United can afford to do just that.
Still, United head coach Ben Olsen expected more from his squad: “It’s strange because I feel unfulfilled,” he told the assembled media after the match. “I think our team feels unfulfilled, but it’s nice to feel unfulfilled and have three points in the back.”
And that’s possibly the most hopeful sign of all for United fans. This team expects to win, and it expects to win convincingly. Gone, for now, are the days where blowing a two-goal lead and skating out with a victory are good enough. United has started to demand more from themselves.
Based on Olsen’s attitude about the three game winning streak, the best may be yet to come. Said Olsen: “When you’re in this, it’s tough to pat yourself on the back. I want to keep going. I want more points, and I want to do big things here, and I want these guys to experience big things.”
Saturday’s victory is the team’s last MLS match for three weeks, as the league breaks for international play. United will still be in action, though, in U.S. Open Cup play. The team will travel to Richmond this week to face the Kickers in a third-round match, and could potentially play again on June 5 if it emerges victorious. I’ll be in Richmond for the match and will have photos and coverage (as well as some background on the Open Cup) today. If you can’t wait that long, follow my live-tweets during the game at DCist_Pablo. Game time is 7:00 p.m., and the match is not televised.
Team Notes: Dejan Jakovic and Dwayne De Rosario have both left for Canadian national team duty-the team plays a friendly on Sunday against the USMNT (7 p.m., NBC Sports Network) before starting their quest to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Neither player will miss any league action for United and weren’t expected to figure into the teams Open Cup plans … The U.S. men’s national squad held an open training session Monday at UMD. United keeper Bill Hamid was spotted in the crowd-he’s still in the player pool but wasn’t selected for duty this time around. “Better believe the dream is still alive,” he tweeted after practice.