WASHINGTON – With Branko Boskovic suspended and captain Dwayne De Rosario moving to forward in Wednesday's match against Chicago, D.C. United manager Ben Olsen thrust a rarely-used midfielder into the starting lineup.
Brazilian veteran Marcelo Saragosa (right) played 90 minutes for the first time since March 24 in United’s dominant 4-2 victory at RFK Stadium. Saragosa and D.C.’s other center mid, Perry Kitchen, formed an impressive pairing.
“I’m very happy to be back on the field and help my teammates,” Saragosa said. “It’s about the team. It’s not about me and Perry.”
Saragoa’s name was the first one Olsen mentioned in his post-game press conference.
“I was impressed with a lot of guys, starting with Marcelo. He set a good tone,” Olsen said. “I’m proud of him. He has had a tough year. I’ve relied on him very, very sparingly and he’s always telling me, ‘Listen, I’ve got it. You need to put me in the game.’”
Highlights: DC United 4, Chicago 2
On this particular night, Saragosa didn’t disappoint his manager as he completed 44 of 54 passes and won five tackles. While Kitchen-Saragosa might not seem like the most natural pairing because of their like-minded defensive tendencies, Olsen said it’s a combination that is “an option going forward.”
“On paper, it has always made sense if their spacing is right and they can co-exist,” Olsen said.
For the 30-year-old Saragosa, Wednesday marked his fourth start of the season and his eighth appearance overall.
Magic Tap No. 9
It’s no secret United have been searching for consistency at forward. And with good reason.
Before Wednesday night, the last time a starting forward scored a goal for D.C. was May 19 when Hamdi Salihi cashed in against Toronto FC. Since then, Maicon Santos and Salihi each have scored one goal after subbing on to account for D.C.’s forward production since that Toronto match.
Olsen, who has been auditioning various strikers at the No. 9 position for the season’s stretch run, was pleased to watch two of his candidates open their scoring accounts against the Fire.
Lionard Pajoy and Long Tan both scored in the victory, with Pajoy’s go-ahead strike putting D.C. ahead 2-1 at a critical juncture before the half.
“I’m happy for Pajoy. It’s always nice when you go to a new team and get your first goal,” Olsen said. “And I’m happy for Tan. He’s had a lot of chances. For him to come in and put that in really eliminated some tension down the stretch.”
In addition to Pajoy and Tan finding scoring success, De Rosario planted his first goal since May 19 and now is one away from 100 for his MLS career.
D.C.’s captain banged home an errant shot by Chris Pontius in the 19th minute to give United a 1-0 lead.
“I saw [the old] Dwayne back today a little bit more. I think he senses that this team needs him now and this team needs him to be great,” Olsen said. “I think he’s inching toward that. I’m hoping he can consistently put numbers on the board.”
Added Kitchen: “He’s our captain for a reason. This is crunch time and we need guys to step up.”