The hardest task for any professional coach or team is to find the right mix of key players. This difficult assignment gets even harder when a team has more talented players than available starting positions. Yet, this weekend at RFK Stadium, Peter Nowak and D.C. United showed that the problems that can arise from having three great attacking players pale in comparison to the benefits those players can provide.
Jaime Moreno, Alecko Eskandarian and Freddy Adu all made major contributions to the attack for D.C. Untied against Dallas. The entire team played well and Nick Rimando returned to the starting line-up to earn his first shutout victory of the season. For a team that needed an offensive outburst to assure a victory, full credit goes to D.C. United's triumvirate of attacking players who triple-handedly restored confidence and put on a soccer celebration in one fell swoop.
It is impossible to overstate the importance that Jaime Moreno has made to D.C. United this season. The three assists he collected this weekend tied his own franchise record for assists in a single game, which he shares of course with Marco Etcheverry. When Moreno was re-signed by D.C. United prior to the start of the season it was unclear how effective he would be. He scored the team's first goal of the season and has been rolling ever since. He has surpassed all of the most hopeful expectations and deserves to be considered for the MVP of Major League Soccer.
In a match where D.C. United needed three points, the players were totally prepared to tackle the matter at hand. Alecko Eskandarian returned to the starting lineup after missing two games with an ankle injury. Eskandarian said that he was a little rusty, although the rest of the league might not have noticed. Eskandarian didn't appear to miss a beat in his first game back, scoring two goals.
Eskandarian has quietly put together a great season. With nine goals, he's once again among the tops in MLS. If he can continue to score goals at this pace, D.C. United have a real chance to be a factor in the MLS playoffs. If Eskandarian can stay healthy, he should also get an opportunity to make the U.S. men's national team roster for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers.
It's tough enough to defend Adu when he's tiring after 70 minutes; when he enters a match with fresh legs it's nearly impossible. For example, minutes after entering the game, Adu had the ball near the corner flag in a tailor made one-on-one situation. Adu looked like he was going to pass to a teammate near midfield, but then in a flash he had backheeled the ball to himself and was sprinting along the goal line towards the penalty area. He was brought down from behind, mere inches outside the box.
Then with a two-goal lead in the final moments, Adu beat the offsides trap and waltzed in on a breakaway. The poise that Adu showed in the box was amazing. He made the goal look almost nonchalant, as he waited patiently for the right moment and slotted the ball past the 'keeper. Adu's goal was the perfect end to the perfect game from United's three big guns.
All coaches dream of the ability to start a pair of strikers who are near the top of the league in scoring and then bring in the league's most dangerous one-on-one player as a substitute. That's precisely what happened this weekend. For Nowak, Moreno, Eskandarian and Adu, the script couldn't have been any more perfect, and for D.C. United the happy ending to the match against Dallas may only be the beginning.
United have played beautiful soccer during the season, but the most glaring aspect missing from their play all season has been consistency. So next week, United will go out and try to duplicate the tremendous attacking play and see if finally, at the most critical time of the season, United can put together their first winning streak.
Tony Limarzi provides live match commentary for all D.C. United games in English on WMET. He also contributes a column to dcunited.com, which runs every Monday.