But to D.C.’s fans – who’ve watched United settle for draws after blowing early leads or being forced to crawl back into games – it was the manner in which D.C. won that was most heartening.
United crushed the Fire. Aided by a first-half red card, D.C. rolled their highest goal tally since August 2015 and saw a new goal hero emerge in the form of Patrick Mullins. The Maryland grad and former NYCFC striker who D.C. picked up just a month ago netted his first-ever MLS hat trick -- the first for a United player in more than two years.
“It’s been a long time since I scored a hat trick,” Mullins told the throng of media assembled at his locker after the match. “Honestly I don’t even remember. It was an exciting moment, one I wanted to take in, and it was a special night for me – and obviously for this team to get three points. So it was a fun one to share with RFK. I’m not going to forget this one.”
None of Mullins’ strikes were particularly spectacular – but all three displayed a savviness that United’s been lacking at times this year. He found himself perfectly positioned on his first tally, a 12-yard strike to the far post, and in the right place at the right time for his second. Finally, a lovely combination with United defender Sean Franklin completed his hat trick.
“He’s working pretty hard,” said United captain Bobby Boswell. “He wants to score goals and I think he’s learning the tendencies of the guys around him. For me, different guys do different things – the way they serve the ball, some guys take extra touches.
“[His third goal] was a great example. The cross from Sean -- if you watch it, Sean takes a touch and it’s like [Patrick] knows that it’s going there and the timing is perfect. I think as he learns everyone’s timing – and he is learning that – [you’ll see] he’s pretty lethal with his left foot.”
Mullins has also managed to combine well in his first set of starts with Luciano Acosta, something that others on Ben Olsen’s D.C. side have struggled with.
“I think it’s simple with him,” Mullins told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s got so much talent that if you move, he’ll find you. I think you saw that on the second goal, just a little over the shoulder run and he’s gonna find you whether it’s with a flick or just a basic ball in like the one tonight. I’ve enjoyed playing with him and it was a good performance tonight but we need to keep re-performing that day in and day out.”