Here’s the first thing that jumped out after Chris Pontius’ trademark curling right-footed goal gave D.C. United a 2-1 victory on the road at New England on Saturday: United (2-2-2, 8 points) is now in third place in the Eastern Conference.
Now, it hasn’t been that long since United was that high in the standings. A quick look at the team’s media guide reveals that D.C. was actually in third place last June after winning on the road at Portland, 3-2, then tying the Galaxy, 0-0, in Los Angeles. But United went no higher than fourth after beating Vancouver, 4-0, at home in August, and in 2010, they were no higher than fourth at any time during the entire season.
It also bears noting that in the Western Conference, D.C.’s current record would be good for only a tie with the Whitecaps for seventh place so there’s plenty of work to be done.
“It’s not a bad little streak we got going,” Pontius said. “You know, we’re taking points. That’s the main thing. Last year, I think we lose that game, we’re not necessarily playing that well, and we find a way to lose that game.”
United’s last four-game unbeaten streak also came last summer and included a pair of wins (over Vancouver and San Jose) and a pair of ties (at home vs Toronto and at Chicago).
Speaking of Pontius’ goal, he doesn’t have a name for it. But Josh Wolff called it, "The Meat Hook."
“I tend to go to it, and he gave me my right foot on the shot,” Pontius said. “Coming in that late, you’ve got to know that the other defense is a little leggy at that point. I’m trying to make run, make them just constantly moving and hopefully they’ll let me go on a play. Nick [DeLeon] does a great job to win that 50-50 header and put me loose, and he actually continues his run and takes that guy away from me so I’m one-on-one. It’s late, and they just don’t recover well, they don’t get help down. I’m going to push it and shoot.”
The late appearance against New England was an interesting example of the challenge of getting into a game right away off the bench.
“It’s tough because usually the pace of the game is very high, and you kind of feel like you’re just doing sprints the whole game,” Pontius said. “You feel more out of breath than when you start a game which is crazy to think about.”
His ability to play up top is a nice option for United coach Ben Olsen, and Pontius said it doesn’t matter where he is on the field.
“I want to play,” he said. “I want to be in the 11. It doesn’t confuse me at all. I’ve always said I’m comfortable in both positions. I’ve just got to see what the defense is going to give me each game and continue to work on that.”
A couple other thoughts:
*Condolences to United midfielder Marcelo Saragosa, who had to head back to Brazil, again, after his father passed away. Tough going, especially when he’d just come back and rejoined the team at the beginning of the week.
*There’s a something going on between Dwayne De Rosario and Maicon Santos, that’s for sure. There’s no way that De Rosario’s bicycle kick was intended specifically for the Brazilian’s head, but it’s the third time they’ve connected this season.
*Neither Dejan Jakovic (ankle) nor Emiliano Dudar (hamstring) are locks to be available for D.C. United on Wednesday at center back. Jakovic didn’t practice on Monday, and Dudar did only light work. Ethan White looked crisp running up and down the field in a straight line, but he hasn’t done as much laterally, and Olsen said he’s still a couple weeks away from a return to action.
*United’s two on-loan players each got minutes last weekend. Goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra played 90 minutes for the third-tier Charleston Battery in a 2-1 loss to the Richmond Kickers on Saturday. The Battery play the Charlotte Eagles on Tuesday evening. Midfielder Conor Shanosky also played a full 90 in the NASL for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in a 0-0 draw with FC Edmonton. The Strikers roster also includes former Maryland Terrapin and Northern Virginia native Abe Thompson.