The road-shy Colorado Rapids came to town at the perfect time for D.C. United on Wednesday, who took advantage of their visitors' typically defensive approach to record a 3-1 win, United's first since Independence Day. United dominated possession and displayed the crisp and composed midfield play which they have shown in fleeting glimpses this season.
Goals from Freddy Adu and Earnie Stewart paced United to a 2-0 halftime lead, and Colorado rarely seemed capable of mounting a comeback despite the hard work of forward John Spencer, whose 73rd-minute tally finally broke a goal-scoring drought dating back to Opening Day.
But the loudest postgame buzz centered on rookie sensation Adu, who scored his third goal of the year and entertained the small but dedicated crowd of 10,848. Adu got a much-coveted start in his preferred attacking midfield spot and made it count, finding space and combining well with possession maestro Jaime Moreno up top.
"It's my natural position," said the 15-year-old phenom. "Jaime and I are similar players. He and I are able to hold the ball well, and we understand each other better now. Hopefully I made an impression."
Adu's confidence and vision have steadily improved over the course of the season, a development watched and nurtured by United coach Peter Nowak.
"Over the last three weeks, he has been proving that he belongs on the field," said Nowak of Adu. "(Tonight) again, he showed that he belongs in this league, on this team. He has worked hard; I am very happy."
Conversely, Tim Hankinson's Rapids seem to desperately need a shot in the arm. With a strike force laid low by injuries to Rey Angel Martinez, Jean-Philippe Peguero and Zizi Roberts, Colorado has had little choice but to pack the back and hope to scratch out low-scoring victories and draws, such as the one they earned on their last trip to Washington, a 0-0 result on 12 June.
Tonight that approach did not work so well. The Rapids repeatedly surrendered possession to the Black-and-Red, dropping back into their own half and depending on the heroics of goalkeeper Joe Cannon, who made several spectacular saves but couldn't stop the onslaught.
After the game, Hankinson seemed resigned as his team saw their recent form fall to just one win in its last eight games.
"Anyone who wants playing time has to be able to take care of the ball," he said. "Right now there's no one to pass to; our guys aren't making runs because they're afraid we're going to lose the ball."
Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.