Photo by Jose L. Argueta/ISIphotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
WASHINGTON — When Maicon Santos was sent to FC Dallas in a trade midway through last season, the Brazilian striker was largely considered the missing link for a championship-caliber squad. But after scoring two goals in 11 games, Santos was benched in the playoffs and let go during the offseason.
In D.C. United's 4-1 win over Dallas on Friday, Santos showed his former club the talent it let walk out the door, notching two goals and an assist as he paced a breakout performance by a fluid D.C. United attack that had looked anything but dynamic to start the season.
"I think he was a little bit extra revved up," United coach Ben Olsen said. "Playing a former team gets you a little bit more focused and more motivated."
If Santos was the star of the show, then rookie Nick DeLeon was a formidable second fiddle, recording a goal and an assist. Winger Danny Cruz added a goal to round out his workmanlike effort, while captain Dwayne De Rosario chipped in two helpers.
United improved to 1-2-1 with the triumph as Dallas dropped to 1-2-1. It was a welcome performance for a D.C. team that had been significantly retooled during the offseason and looked out of sorts while only scoring one goal in three games prior. And the outing was a testament to United's depth, as the three goal-scorers were all reserves opening day.
"It's a big confidence booster," De Rosario said. "We've got a good thing going right now. So we've just got to maintain it, keep our focus and keep working for each other."
Santos opened the scoring in the 28th minute. With the Dallas back line failing to close down space, the 27-year-old dribbled toward goal unopposed and unleashed a 25-yard howler that sailed into the back of the net.
"That's what I do — work and shoot from long distance," Santos said.
In a moment of controversy, Dallas drew even four minutes before the break. Daniel Hernandez played a seemingly harmless ball forward that slipped by United centerback Emiliano Dudar, allowing striker Blas Perez to break through and slot his shot inside the far post. United's calls for offside — which television replays showed were legitimate — went unanswered.
But it ultimately mattered not, as DeLeon gave United the lead back in the 60th minute in a moment of redemption for the winger. In the minutes prior, DeLeon missed two golden chances, taking too long to get a shot off on the first opportunity before ringing the crossbar with his second.
For DeLeon, it turned out, the third time was the charm, as he connected with a curling service from Santos at the far post, smashing his angled shot past goalkeeper Kevin Hartman.
It was the second career goal for DeLeon, who added his first assist six minutes later when he drove a perfectly placed ball across the box for Cruz to finish. And Santos put the icing on the cake for United in the 73rd minute, nodding home a pinpoint service from De Rosario.
When the flurry finally ended, United had three goals in 13 minutes.
"The chemistry was unbelievable tonight," Cruz said.
Dallas, whose frustration reached a climax in the 77th minute when Hernandez was sent off for a second yellow card, came out firing in the game's opening minutes, as Ricardo Villar and Perez both forced top-notch saves from United goalkeeper Joe Willis, who started in place of the injured Bill Hamid (ankle).
"This game could have been, without Joe Willis, down 2-0, and that game looks a whole lot different," Olsen said. "He's the most valuable player, hands down, in this game."
After those saves, United began to find a rhythm. In the 13th minute, De Rosario struck the crossbar with an ambitious 30-yard volley. From there, D.C. only improved.
"Our soccer is getting better," DeLeon said. "The team is starting to connect well, and we're starting to know each other's habits. Over time and game to game, we keep getting better."
Too old. Turns 24 in August.
I don’t know what you’re talking about, that was a 90-minute performance from him, with lots of good hold up play and interchange in addition to the goals.
Better yet, Get a New Stadium!
Agreed, San Jose have some really passionate fans.
No, George W. Bush- 2007.
George H. W. Bush ?
Plus, our capitol needs to be represented.
goddammit, the one game I don’t go to.
Could Willis have played for the u23s? He didn’t have a ton of action, but he was very very good when he did. That was the best I’ve seen DCU play in a long while. Entertaining game.
It’ great to see Tony Parker has talents other than basketball
I think Pontius is should move to Forward permanently
San Jose fans will get their chance pretty soon…
FCD is hasn’t been the same w/o Ferriera. They need him back fast.
Pound for Pound DC has the best fanbase in MLS. If they had a stadium like SKC or even the capacity of a stadium like LSP, their home field advantage would be even more of a factor. When DC gets going at home, they are tough to beat.
De Leon is a young De Ro and Cruz is the perfect fit for this team. This team will be a factor if Salihi and Boskovic can ever get going.
Woolard deserves some props for his showing tonight. Strong in defense, successful in the passing game and a few successful ventures forward. One of his best performances I’ve ever seen.
As far as U-23 rebound, its one game. I thought Brek was okay, and besides Perez the most threatening player in the FC Dallas attack.
Kitchen also had a decent night, broke up play well, however, I think his distribution needs to improve. I was encouraged that Ben kept urging him to get forward early in DC possessions and drop to cover the backline only once DC had established possession in the final third.
De Leon had a great game. DC will have a lot of depth on the wings.
Weeknight and Friday matches are tough for our fan base. Traffic in DC isn’t quite at LA levels, but it’s pretty bad.
Of course it doesn’t help when we haven’t been in the playoffs since the Bush administration.
To be fair, Santos was MIA most of the game, but he made the most of his moments. That shot was one of the best I’ve seen at RFK.
Haha come on bro it wasn’t that cold! Wear a glove in your beer hand and/or man up! And I realize you may be a woman, but… Nah this is SBI.
When I saw the lineup tonight (Najar in Olympic qualifying, CP on bench), I thought we were in for a tough night on the wings against Shea, Lloyd and company. But we were awesome — not just DeLeon and Cruz but the entire attack. Kitchen was steady in the middle, and each centerback only made one mistake (and also some great plays).
The squad needed a match like this in the worst way. Bring on Seattle!
It was freakin’ cold. I was shivering the whole night.
After the Olympics qualifying debacle, everyone is going on about how the USA needs to develop more technically gifted players…and I include myself among those making the point.
Leyva is the real deal. I saw him play on TV last week and was impressed. Watching him live, it was clear he had better touch than anyone else on the pitch ever dreamed of having. The kid has technique, in spades. Every touch was inch perfect and beautiful to watch. He hasn’t played with the Mexico youth set in over 2 years? If it’s at all possible, the USSF needs to go all in to get him into our set. Throw a huge signing bonus at this kid, if that what it takes. Then, force Klinsi to get him cap-tied to the USA…pronto.
That’s too harsh — in fact, the only miss I think he should have put away was the one Hartman made a great diving save. If Nick had placed a little better, Hartman wouldn’t have gotten it — but how can you fault someone for forcing a goalie to make a save like that? DeLeon’s hustle over the field was fantastic to watch, taking on and beating defenders and repeatedly getting to loose balls when the other player should have been favored to get it. He was the best player out there for most of the game…until Bryan Leyva came on (which is something I’ll cover in another comment).
nah nah nah nah nah Nah nah!
You’ve been…. THUNDERSTRUCK!!!
(Reasonable comments pending a less ridiculous result).
DeLeon looked FANTASTIC. Hustled for every single ball out there. Santos looked cool and composed. Worth braving the cold tonight to witness this!
13K attendance, but still a good game.
The Olympic pre-qualifying debacle was supposed to be a learning lesson for our young players. I did not notice much new learned by Brek Shea. Same old move to the left in an attempt to outrun the defender(s). When the first was beaten, the second would pick up the loose ball from Brek.
I thought the West was so much better than the East
Thomas is right though he should have easily score his previous chances.
DeLeon is a beast,I just left the match. He really gave 110% out there. Win or lose that’s the kind of effort I expect from this club night in and night out.
I remember being furious when DC picked DeLeon instead of Hoffman in the Superdraft… now I feel stupid.