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For the first time this season, DC United looked inspired, finally showing the hustle and fight that optimized head coach Ben Olsen’s career when he wore the famous red and black as a player. Add to that some initiative and imagination, and United were able to dominate FC Dallas with some free flowing, quick touch soccer.

It took a while for DC to get into the game with the back-line having some nervy moments early. This created a couple chances for Dallas forward, Blas Perez, but United back-up goalkeeper Joe Willis came to the rescue time after time.

Around the 20th minute mark, United began to take control of the game with reigning MVP Dwayne DeRosario running the show just behind the forwards. In the first three games of the season, DeRo had too many defensive responsibilities. With the return of Perry Kitchen in defensive midfield, DeRosario was once again able to focus on staying higher up the pitch.

With FC Dallas following DeRo all over the pitch, a defender was often pulled out of the middle of the field, which opened up space for a black and red jersey to fill this open channel in the center of the park.

This is how Maicon Santos opened the scoring just before the half hour mark. As DeRo pulled out wide and played a quick ball into Santos, the former FC Dallas man took the space and put his former employers to the sword, unleashing a cracking drive into the upper left corner from 25 yards out.

At the other end, Ricardo Villar was playing a bit too far away from Perez for any real interplay to occur between the two forwards. But United’s defense is so shaky and unorganized, that it was no surprise that United’s back-line gifted Dallas a way back into the match just before halftime.

Emilliano Dudar miss-touched a simple ball allowing Perez in one on one v. Willis. This time the United keeper had no chance. United fans may claim that Perez was in an offside position, but United and Dudar in particular deserved to be punished for such an egregious lapse in concentration.

However, FC Dallas never made the necessary adjustments at halftime to stay competitive with a team in desperate need of a win. The hoops continued to leave the space open in the center of the field in the second half. It was from this space which a hungrier United fashioned the game winner on the hour mark. Santos dropped into that open pocket of space to receive the ball, and floated a delightful cross for Nick DeLeon to volley home from an acute angle. It was just rewards for the rookie who finally was able to hit the back of the net with his third chance in the span of five minutes.

DeLeon was one of the heroes for United as his feverish work down the left not only ran Dallas ragged, but also kept Zach Loyd- a dangerous wing defender going forward- from venturing into the Dallas attack. United’s third goal came simply because the rookie out of Louisville wanted a speculative ball played down the line more than his defender.

DeLeon blew down the line and sent an inch-perfect cross for an unmarked Danny Cruz to finish at the back post. It was shocking defending from the Texas side as no one bothered to follow Cruz into the box.

Dallas, meanwhile, offered nothing going forward. As Brandon Corday, a two-time DIII All-American at Franklin & Marshall observed, “They are give up possession left and right... [The] first option always gets played.”

With the match turning into an exhibition, DC United gave a clinic on how to hit on the counter attack with a splendid fourth. Once again, Cruz, DeRo and Santos were all involved. Cruz streaked forward but smartly held up the ball and waited for DeRo to arrive on the scene. The Canadian international sent in a perfect one touch cross to the back post for Santos to collect his brace with a powerful header.

 

Tonight we saw how good DC United can be and the buzz has already started to surround DeLeon as a Rookie of the Year candidate. We have to remember though that we have also seen DC United at their worst and there are still plenty of questions that need to be asked of the back-line.

USfutblog colleague Max Lom perfectly summed up the game when he tweeted, “Some poor moments defensively tonight, but with DeRo in form they're in every game. Imagine if Salihi/Boskovic ever show up.”

DC United has an eagle and not a phoenix on their crest, but if the capital club continues to play like this, than 2012 might be the year that another bird rises from the ashes.