DC Shows Signs of Life

US Open Cup victory over Philadelphia gives United hope
by Peter Muller   |   Friday, June 14, 2013

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

DC United, mired in a 12-game regular season winless streak, might just be showing signs that they are beginning to emerge from the worst stretch in the club’s history.

The Black and Red rode a Dwayne De Rosario hat trick to a 3-1 victory over their mid-Atlantic rivals Philadelphia Union in the U.S. Open Cup at the Maryland Soccerplex Wednesday night.

The victory, which comes on the heels of a scoreless draw in New England on Saturday, may be an indication that United has started to find their form deep into what has so far been a catastrophic season.

“We’re healthy, finally, and it’s a good vibe right now,” said United manager Ben Olsen. “There’s a silent confidence about us that we can get out of this thing and now’s the time.”

Olsen’s optimistic note is due in large part to team captain De Rosario, who has rarely made the score sheet during this disappointing season and recently found himself out of the starting lineup.

De Rosario scored in the first half to give United the lead and doubled his output in the 75th minute to seemingly ice the game. But Philadelphia’s Jack McInerney pulled a goal back a minute later to put United’s victory in doubt.

De Rosario completed his hat trick and assured United’s advancement in the Cup with a long distance goal in the 86th minute to see out the victory.

“I thought Dwayne was an absolute star,” said Olsen. “The guy’s a winner. He’s been through a lot, I’ve been through a lot, and he responded tonight the way you expect a guy like Dwayne to respond.”

Olsen and De Rosario haven’t been on the same page recently, with DeRosario relegated to substitute’s bench in recent league matches against Portland and New England. But victory can smooth over differences between a coach and a star player.

“Sometimes, you’re going to bump heads when things aren’t going your way,” De Rosario said. “I have a strong personality. Like I said, I’m passionate, and he (Olsen) has a strong personality too, so we’re going to bump heads. But at the end of the day, my job is to go out there and do the best job I can to help this team, and thankfully I was able to do that tonight.”

DC now must turn its attention to ending its league-high winless streak when it hosts fellow another struggling side in Toronto FC at RFK Stadium on Saturday. But United enters that game with the availability of several regular starters questionable.

Chris Pontius left the Philadelphia match early with what has been diagnosed as a concussion and is not expected to play a role in the game on Saturday. According to the Washington Post’s Steven Goff, defenders Ethan White and James Riley will also miss the game while Dejan Jakovic and Kyle Porter are listed as questionable.

“We’re banged up, we put a lot into this game,” said Olsen. “So we’re going to have to piecemeal something together for the weekend and try and draw on our resolve against Toronto.”

If there is any team a struggling MLS side wants to face, besides DC, it is Toronto. The Reds have a distinctly DC feel, with former United captain Ryan Nelsen as manager, longtime United President Kevin Payne now leading the Toronto organization and former United midfielder Bobby Convey recently acquired from Kansas City.

But the turnaround expected by the Payne/Nelsen regime has yet to materialize and Toronto finds itself in a familiar position at the bottom end of the table. Nelsen is looking for reinforcements in July to bolster his team.

“We’ve lined up the guys we want and if we can get 3 to 4 of the players that we want to bring in, then we will be very close (to where we want to be),” said Nelsen, “along with the foundation of the young players who have been progressing and who will only get better and better with more experience and more games under their belt.”

For both clubs, the competitive portion of the MLS season is likely over. But for the 2 young coaches and former teammates, trying to build squads that can be successful for the long-run, Saturday’s match is an opportunity to measure whether their teams are headed in the right direction.

NEXT UP: June 15 – DC United vs. Toronto FC, RFK Stadium, Washington, DC. 7 p.m. EST, Comcast Sports Net, MLS Live.


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Peter is a government relations professional in Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, CA. He has been a DC United season ticket holder since 1997 and has attended every MLS Cup except one – in 1998 when he was busy helping his boss get re-elected to Congress.