United not afraid of streaking

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D.C. United,Craig Stouffer

D.C. United 3, Dynamo 2

D.C. United extended one streak but finally ended another with its 3-2 victory over the Houston Dynamo on Saturday before 13,975 at RFK Stadium.

After squandering a one goal lead twice in the second half, Maicon Santos rose for a spectacular header off a cross from Daniel Woolard in the 70th minute for the second of two goals to ensure that United would stretch its unbeaten run to seven matches.

But more importantly, D.C. won consecutive league matches for the first time in nearly three years, since June 2009. The last time United won three in a row was 2008, the year after the team’s last playoff appearance – that four-year drought remains the most important streak D.C. is aiming to end.

“That’s the first thing DeRo [Dwayne De Rosario] said in here [in the locker room],” United midfielder Danny Cruz said. “‘Let’s not let up.’ He was right. Yeah, two in a row is great, but we’re not satisfied with that.”

Using the same starting lineup in back-to-back matches for the first time all season, United (4-2-3) set the tone immediately just as it had done six days prior in a 4-1 demolition of New York. In the 11th minute, Chris Pontius raced onto a pass over the top from Brandon McDonald and touched it past oncoming goalkeeper Tally Hall, who’d come too far off his line. With time, Pontius picked up his head and found Maicon Santos, who redirected  a cross into the net after Hall got a touch as he retreated.

“Sometimes you get some bounces that go your way,” Pontius said. “We got that tonight, and there was obviously some bounces that went against us for their goals.”

But United’s worst break came in the 44th minute when central defender pulled up lame with a left hamstring strain, the same injury that had cost him two matches before last week.

“It didn’t look good,” United coach Ben Olsen said. “It’s not ideal because Dudar, he’s been a stud.”

His departure also led to a sequence of adjustments that cost United the lead twice. Robbie Russell took Dudar position while Perry Kitchen moved back to right fullback, where he played last year but hardly his preferred place.

In the 50th minute, the retooled back line left Will Bruin, who had a hat trick against D.C. last season in Houston, wide open for Jermaine Taylor’s cross after Taylor had rounded Cruz and left him sprawled face first on the ground.

In the 59th minute, Kitchen’s weak clearance hit off Corey Ashe and landed in the path of Bruin, who slammed it at United goalkeeper Joe Willis. Soaked by rain that started falling heavily late in the first half, the ball slipped through Willis’ grasp, tying the game, 2-2.

“He hit it pretty well,” Willis said. “But it was right at me. I should’ve done better with it. A wet ball, it got under me.”

In between, De Rosario curled in a 54th-minute cross that missed Pontius’ head by a whisker but landed perfect at the back post, ricocheting into the net for the reigning MLS MVP’s first goal of the season.

The game winner also started with De Rosario, whose collision with former D.C. defender Bobby Boswell in the 62nd minute earned a shove from, and yellow card, for Corey Ashe and a grab from Boswell. Eight minutes later, De Rosario’s ball work left Adam Moffat in a heap before he found Woolard on the left wing, from where fullback picked up his second assist of the night. Unmarked, Santos hit a looping header that again received a touch from Hall but still found its intended destination.

“It was a beautiful cross that I got from Woolard,” said Santos of his team-high sixth goal. “I just do my job, and I head it pretty high.”

Houston, playing its sixth of seven straight games on the road to start the season, didn’t register another shot on goal. The victory was United’s first since 2009 over the Dynamo (2-2-2), last year’s MLS Cup runner-up, and closed out a three-game homestand without a blemish.

“There’s something to this team,” Olsen said. “They got a little bit of chutzpah, as they say.”

D.C. will play its next trio of games away from home, a stretch that concludes at Houston in the inaugural match at the Dynamo’s new home, BBVA Compass Stadium.

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Craig Stouffer

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner