WASHINGTON — It’s funny how quickly things can change in Major League Soccer.
Just weeks ago, when D.C. United were mired in a six-game winless streak and had squandered what was once a double-digit lead atop the Eastern Conference, most of the chatter surrounding the denizens of RFK Stadium was related to just how far they’d sink.
Some particularly dark souls wondered whether D.C. would even make the post-season at all.
But after United’s 4-0 drubbing of the Chicago Fire on Sunday afternoon — their second consecutive victory — that talk has largely quieted. In second place ahead of what’s now become a crucial match against Columbus Crew SC next weekend, D.C. appear to be rounding into form at the right time, stringing together positive results as they head towards the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs.
"It’s a crazy league, right?,” United head coach Ben Olsen told MLSsoccer.com during his post-game remarks on Sunday.
After a sleepy opening half hour, United midfielder Chris Pontius broke the doldrums when he pounced on an errant Chicago pass, streaking in and rounding Fire ‘keeper Jon Busch for United’s opener. After the match, Pontius deflected much of the credit for his tally to his teammates, pointing out that fellow midfielder Chris Rolfe’s pressure had led to the turnover.
If Pontius’ goal was United’s first-half wakeup call, they roared to life in the second stanza. In the 67th minute, D.C. centerback Bobby Boswell — who has consistently put himself in threatening positions all year — rose to meet a corner kick at the edge of the six-yard box, using a perfectly-placed header into the far side netting to double D.C.’s lead. Minutes later, Fabian Espindola got on the scoresheet with a deflected blast; Alvaro Saborio capped United’s rout ten minutes from time with a close-range tap in.
“We talked about kind of hitting anywhere along that six [yard box],” Boswell said of his goal. “A lot of times I get kind of matched up against these giants, and I was kind of having a little bit of success in the first half getting free. A lot of times I try and get [my defender] out of the way; I felt like I had good separation and [Espindola] plays a perfect ball for that run and I got a good play on it.”
“I was talking to my family today,” Boswell added “[I was saying] I should have a lot more goals than I do.”
After the match, much of the talk in an upbeat United locker room was focused on the task at hand - continuing to build form heading into their matchup against Crew SC next weekend. Generally speaking, most of United’s players and coaches seemed to have made little of the talk surrounding their previous slide and lack of form. Their win against NYCFC in the match leading up to their encounter with the Fire had led to a positive week of training, and on Sunday, it showed.
"I think there’s all this talk,” said Boswell. “We don’t really buy into a lot of the stuff that goes on in the media and the league. [Tonight] we felt like a good group, we felt like we got a lot out of practice both as a team and individually and the message tonight was just go out there and put on a good show. It’s fan appreciation day, we wanted to end our home season with a bang and I thought we did that.
"I think we’ve been in so many situations this year.” Boswell continued, “We’ve come from behind, we’ve gotten in big shootouts with teams, we’ve had some hardships where we didn’t play well and got our asses kicked — but at the end of the day we’ve learned a lot from it. If we can put all that together, which I think we can, I like this group going forward. Because that will to win is a hard thing to find and I think we’ve got it."