Santos among the most pleasant of surprises for DC

WASHINGTON – With big money splashed out to MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario and Designated Player Hamdi Salihi this offseason, D.C. United’s signing of Brazilian forward Maicon Santos seemed like a footnote as Ben Olsen strengthened his roster.

Now, Santos has stolen the whole script away. With Salihi yet to score and De Rosario dropped into the midfield, the Brazilian veteran has caught fire for the Black and Red, with six goals on the season. He added two more to his tally on Saturday night in United’s 3-2 win over the Houston Dynamo.

HIGHLIGHTS: D.C. United 3, Houston 2

“Maicon is a big boy and willing to do a lot of the work as far as holding the balls up and fighting,” Olsen told reporters after the win. “[Chris Pontius] is very mobile underneath and behind. He plays off [Maicon] very well. For now, it’s a good partnership.”

Pontius also happened to find himself playing striker as a result of Olsen needing options up front. With Nick DeLeon and Danny Cruz patrolling the wide midfield positions, where Pontius usually plays, Olsen has played Pontius alongside Santos for three games now, and the result has been stellar.

Santos first goal against Houston came off his partner. Pontius rounded Dynamo ‘keeper Tally Hall on a long ball and picked out Santos with a cross the 28-year-old headed into net.

“We talked before the game and said, ‘Let’s get some goals tonight,’ and we hoped so,” Santos said after the Houston game. “I looked around and saw that I had the space to run. Pontius chipped the ball very well. We’re working together as a team both inside the field and outside the field and that has been a great point for us.” 

The unlikely partnership almost never came to fruition for United. Santos, who failed to latch on at Chivas USA, Toronto FC and FC Dallas, was signed by United thanks to the recommendation of De Rosario, who played alongside him in Toronto. Pontius, meanwhile, was almost forced up top thanks to the stellar play DeLeon and Cruz on the wings

The unlikely duo has combined for 10 goals and two assists, second in the league in total goals between two teammates behind New York’s Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper. The goals have not been wasted either: The two have combined for five goals in the past two games, both victories and the first time United have won back-to-back league games since June 2009.

Meanwhile, D.C. have posted a seven-game unbeaten streak that has them near the top of the Eastern Conference table, territory unfamiliar to the team over the past couple of seasons.

“It is obviously one of our goals to put some streaks together,” Pontius said. “If you look at the past four games, four Eastern Conference teams, we come out with 10 points out of 12. I think that’s pretty good for us, especially when you are looking at the Eastern Conference.”