United make Chivas USA feel the heat
In compiling a four-match unbeaten streak over the past month, D.C. United have beaten several of the league's top sides both at home and on the road.
On Saturday afternoon the defending MLS Cup champs showed no inclination to allow neither blistering heat nor struggling Chivas USA to derail their progress, as they dispatched with the expansion side 3-0 at RFK Stadium.
A quick sequence of first-half goals from Santino Quaranta and Jamil Walker put the home side in a strong position going into the interval, and their fluid second-half possession mercilessly forced Chivas to chase both the ball and the game to little avail. When Dema Kovalenko added an exclamation point in the 64th minute, it was all over barring the celebration.
"It was a tough week for us," said United coach Peter Nowak after his team's third league match in seven days. "The toughest part is always to keep focus and concentrate. As I told my guys, you have to be careful going forward, but in this weather condition if you have a chance you have to put it in, so we did a pretty good job. In two minutes we scored two goals and the game was over."
United have maintained their form despite a crowded match schedule amid the hottest temperatures of the year, and Saturday's 4 p.m. ET start time offered no respite with the field-level heat index hovering around 120 degrees.
"Yeah, that's the way it goes," said D.C. midfielder Josh Gros. "Definitely, if we played three or four hours later, it wouldn't be a problem -- the heat wouldn't be as big of a factor. I definitely felt it today, especially after three games in one week. Your legs start to get heavy, but you've just got to fight through it."
Always a fitness-oriented coach, Nowak refused to lower his expectations despite the conditions.
"As I've told you guys many times, I don't accept such excuses," he said. "You're either out of shape or you're not fit. For me it was very good, and we still had enough power to score the goals and win the game."
After having missed much of the early season due to a stress fracture in his foot, Kovalenko continues to come on strong as his team surges towards the East-leading New England Revolution.
"Absolutely fabulous," said Nowak of his former Chicago Fire teammate's run of form. "Dema was coming very slowly after that injury he had, and he was a big part in (last Saturday's victory at) Chicago. He played very good against L.A. and he scored against Chicago. He scored in the last game against New York and today he finished his performance in the last couple of months with another goal."
"It was a good game, a good win for us, a few good games put together," said Kovalenko. "But we can't get too confident. We've got a tough game next week. (But) we've put ourselves in a good position."
While an Aug. 27 rubber match with New England beckons as the battle for playoff positioning reaches its peak, United will first look to knock off another visiting California side when the Galaxy come to town next weekend.
"Last year we came in second (in the Eastern Conference), and we had home-field advantage against (the Revolution) to get to the final, and I think that was huge for us," said Gros. "That's the same thing for us this year. We need home-field advantage. That's going to be a huge game, but say they drop points next week -- we gotta get some. So we can't look too far ahead."
Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.