Hat trick! Christian Benteke gives DC United dream 2024 start


At the risk of sounding obvious, Christian Benteke is dominant.

It's not just in MLS; the former Belgian international has posterized defenders throughout his career at the highest levels of the game. The English Premier League. The Belgian Pro League. Euros. World Cup qualifiers. You name it.

But his hat trick against the New England Revolution on Saturday night, powering a 3-1 victory at Audi Field, provided a potent reminder the 33-year-old cannot be slept on.

"As a striker, I'm not going to lie – it's important to score, to build your confidence, even more for myself because I know I'm one of the faces of a team," Benteke said after the 2024 season home opener.

"I am glad that I had a chance to score three goals, but overall it was a good game because I think without my teammates I can't score those goals."

New style

It's hard to think of a more perfect way to start a new era in D.C. General manager Ally Mackay and head coach Troy Lesesne are at the very beginning of a rebuild project, a sizable undertaking to return one of MLS's most storied clubs to the top of the table. For Lesesne, who watched the match from a suite while serving a one-match suspension carried over from last season, it was a good start.

"It sounds a bit abstract until you can see it for your own eyes. And so tonight, I think you were able to see for your own eyes, especially whenever we were 11-v-11, the type of team that we're trying to be and what we aspire to do in the match," the former New York Red Bulls boss pondered.

"And that's what we've been working on for six weeks, is just trying to be an aggressive team, a proactive team, but also creative at the right times. And I think we displayed a number of those characteristics tonight."

A 25th-minute red card to New England striker Giacomo Vrioni certainly helped D.C., but the new ideas for how they want to play were evident.

“If we win, great. If you lose, it's not the end of the world, because we are still trying to play a new way that Troy wants us to play,” said Benteke. “I think obviously now we are more front-foot. We want to press, we want to regain the ball higher up on a pitch, which is good.”

Target striker

For all the tactical tweaks, Lesesne isn’t pivoting away from his team’s greatest strength. Just like in the Black-and-Red's Wayne Rooney days, Benteke's aerial presence remains a huge advantage.

“In terms of us playing into Christian Benteke, I don't know why you wouldn't play into Christian Benteke,” joked Lesesne. “I think he had a pretty good performance tonight.”

At least now Lesesne is on the fun end of Benteke's goal-scoring exploits. The Designated Player scored a hat-trick in their last match as opponents, a 5-3 win by Lesesne's then-RBNY last September.

"I'm glad he's in my team, that's for sure. This is something that every coach wants, is to have a guy like that that can score goals," said Lesesne. " … Beyond the goals and the impact in the game, what's great about him is that every single day this guy comes in and is probably the most humble guy in our locker room. He buys into everything that we do, and he sets the example. And he set the example again tonight."

The veteran recognized how much the tables had turned: "I scored my first hat trick in MLS against him and I score a trick for him. Hopefully many more to come."