DC Delights and Transforms Into a Title Contender

United has been on an excellent streak this season, and is turning into a contender
by Robert Mera   |   Tuesday, September 02, 2014

United Capitol – column on DC United (DCU) & the Washington DC/DMV area soccer scene.

Fabian Espindola put away a chance early in the game versus Sporting KC and started a 3-goal win for DC United last week. The Argentine has undoubtedly been a stable foundation for DCU this season. Eddie Johnson may have been suspended, but Chris Rolfe has stepped up in EJ’s absence and delivered goals.

DC United almost made it look easy versus a Sporting KC defense that got caught flat-footed on DC’s second and third goals. It should be noted that SKC has World Cup veterans Matt Besler and Graham Zusi among their ranks and still controlled the game for great stretches. And although Eddie Johnson has missed the last two games, the paths he constructed with Arnaud, DeLeon, Luis Silva and Rolfe remained for the rest of the group to exploit, which gave way to Perry Kitchen’s goal that sealed the game.

It was great to see a comprehensive match from DC, and it was quite a change from the timid group that played to an underwhelming 1-0 win over Jamaica’s Waterhouse at RFK stadium in midweek CONCACAF Champions League action. For the CCL match, coach Ben Olsen turned to a less-experienced side but exploited the inclusion of Eddie Johnson to edge out the Jamaicans. Still, there was little magic and lazy possession. Against Kansas City, however, their game was clean and meaningful.

DC United has set the tone in the Eastern conference with steady play and general grinding of results. They are reminiscent of last season’s Portland Timbers. The Capital boys have excelled in maintaining a cohesive unit that is able to shut down or outpace some of the more impressive attackers in the league, such as Thierry Henry and Dom Dwyer.

United has reacted well to tests on its depth during a much more crowded latter half of the season. Losing players like Cristian Fernandez (elected to move back to Spain), Chris Korb (injury), Parke (inner ear surgery) has required less-experienced players like Steven Birnbaum and Taylor Kemp to step up. And so far they have done well. Also, Sean Franklin played a great match versus Kansas City, displaying the type of darting runs that earned him rookie of the year with the LA Galaxy.

Luis Silva has really developed into a talisman for this team when he’s on the pitch. He tends to control the midfield and puts balls in dangerous positions. It is hard to believe he's still fairly young at 25. He was sidelined early in the season by an ankle injury and then a prolonged stretch on the bench when he recovered. However, he stormed back into the scene in early June with a hat trick over Montreal and a brace against Chivas USA. Ben Olsen has faith on the youngster and argues that he only needs to work on the physical aspect of his game because he's already technically gifted.

DC United will need Silva to remain in top form as the final two months of league play close in. This season has seen United perform an incredible turnaround from a record franchise low last year to bona fide contender in 2014.

NEXT UP: September 6 – DC United vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, BC Place, Vancouver, Canada. 10 p.m. EDT, TSN, CSN-Washington, MLS Live. 

Robert MERA

NC State
Club Domestic:
PTFC, DC United
Club Foreign:
Emelec (ECU)
Robert is a climate scientist by day and soccer columnist by night (and weekends). He covers all things DC United, from player development to international tournaments.