it was a three-goal lead and I came in disappointed. We could have played better. We finished well but we didn't manage the game that well," Soehn said. "The second half I thought we started knocking it around a little bit better. Whether it was the conditions or the way we came out, I just expected a little bit more from our starters."
For Emilio, it was his first-ever MLS hat trick, and the 2008 league MVP has now scored six goals in United's last four matches. That coincides with United's four-game unbeaten run, where the Black-and-Red have hit for 11 goals.
"We just want to build consistency. After you look back you say we've done this for two months in a row, and now you say you're there," Soehn said. " ... Obviously we're creating a lot of opportunities, I thought that was a positive. I've said this before, when Luciano [Emilio] does get one, they start to come in bunches and they're starting to come in bunches, but there are still things to work on."
If there was a down point, it was in the goal United allowed in the second half. They have still gone the entire season without recording a clean sheet; the 24 goals allowed on the season are most in MLS, three more than the Los Angeles Galaxy.
"I'm disappointed we gave up a goal. We're working hard on getting a clean sheet but we haven't gotten a clean sheet yet and that's troublesome. So there are still some things to fix," Soehn said. Said Devon McTavish "It's something that's kind of driving us crazy. We practice it every week and we're trying to get better but for some reason we always have some little letdown that lets a ball in. But it's getting better -- I don't think we're letting [in] soft goals as we had been earlier in the season."
Soehn also pointed to the improved play of goalkeeper Zach Wells as a key to the recent run. "He's manning the box a little bit more," said Soehn. "He's more decisive in the decisions he makes and that's what we've asked of him. He's starting to do that."
Said Wells: "I think now I understand what's expected of me as the goalkeeper for D.C. United. It's a little bit different than what was expected of me at New York and [Houston]. I think we're just starting to figure out where I fit in with the team and we're doing a better job of communication between myself and the coaches and what's expected, and that's translating on the field in success and confidence."
Victories the last two weeks have catapulted United over two teams in the Eastern Conference standings. They now sit just four points out of third place in the conference - and the automatic playoff spots - still short of the halfway mark of the season.
"I'd rather we be first. Right now all we can do is control what's going forward. We can't look back. As long as we stay consistent now and keep putting results together and good performances together, we're going to be happy with that because that's what we have now," Soehn said.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
San Jose Earthquakes played a man down for more than a half, yet still held out and gained a scoreless draw with Real Salt Lake on Wednesday evening at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Quakes now have 11 points from 12 matches on the season, sitting in seventh place in the Western Conference, three points behind Chivas USA.
Real came into the match with two wins and a draw in their last three matches, with shutouts in their last two games, while the Earthquakes had alternated wins and losses for five consecutive rounds, last a 3-0 loss to the Galaxy at home.
A quiet first half saw the game's flashpoint erupt just before halftime, when San Jose defender Jason Hernandez was sent off for a second bookable offense in the 44th minute.
After the break, the home side piled on the pressure, ending the match with a 24-7 advantage in attempts at goal. But they put just four on target; San Jose managed just one.
RSL seemed to have the goal they needed in the 72nd minute when Kyle Beckerman tapped in from close range from a corner kick. But after consultation between referee Jasen Anno and his assistant, the goal was ruled out for offside.
Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop made two changes to the team that lost 3-0 to the Los Angeles Galaxy the previous weekend at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland. James Riley returned from suspension and Ivan Guerrero from international duty as Ryan Cochrane and Adam Smarte went to the substitutes' bench.
Here's Yallop's team (4-4-2): Joe Cannon - James Riley, Kelly Gray, Jason Hernandez, Eric Denton - Ronnie O'Brien, Ramiro Corrales, Ned Grabavoy, Ivan Guerrero (Ryan Cochrane 51) - Ryan Johnson, John Cunliffe (Adam Smarte 61). Substitutes Not Used: Dan Benton, Jamil Roberts, Shea Salinas, Joe Vide
"What it does, it allows Salt Lake to not get three points," Yallop said. "And in our division, as we know, it's tight as anything. On the road, in division games, we don't want to lose. A tie is fine. Then in your home games against the division you want to try and get a win. Salt Lake will be upset that they didn't win, but it evens itself out in the end. They might not have been lucky tonight, but we've been unlucky in games and haven't won. That's just the way it shakes down."
After conceding three goals to Real Salt Lake in their last meeting (May 31), the scoreless draw was a good turnaround on two fronts. It marked a measured improvement from their last trip to Utah, and also showed a good rebound from the 3-0 loss to LA the weekend before.
"If we don't fight, and don't scrap with teams we don't get anything. All in all, if you watch a lot of our games we're a good footballing side. But, we have to earn the right to play. The games where we've been beaten very badly we haven't earned that right," said Ronnie O'Brien. "Like L.A. last week. We were second to every ball; we didn't get stuck in, and we get walked all over. Columbus the week before and tonight we were pretty physical, we get in, we do what we have to do to get on the ball. We were a hard team mentally and hopefully we're playing a bit better football."
Kelly Gray started the game at an unusual center back position with Ryan Cochrane moving to a substitute role. Then when Hernandez was sent off, Eric Denton shifted into the center, giving San Jose a somewhat strange look in the heart of the defense.
"When we go a man down I think the focus almost becomes completely on not giving up a goal, when before you are trying to get the ball up the field and trying to stretch. In this game we really didn't give up too many chances," said Joe Cannon.
O'Brien was very active in a rare performance at Salt Lake, suffering a San Jose season-high six fouls.
"He was our man of the match. He was really good on both sides of the ball. Ronnie is back to his best and we are excited to have him. He is doing really well," said Yallop. Said Gray: "He is a veteran, a leader, and an offensive threat, so anytime we can get him on the field it is great for us. The last few times here he has been injured, and we are just lucky that he is healthy now. In the last two weeks he has led us out there on the field."
Said O'Brien: "You need to do what you need to do. To be honest, I haven't had to play here before because of the turf. I am just happy to come off it very healthy."
The draw was also a good start for a four-game road swing that continues in D.C. The Quakes will travel to Chicago and Chivas USA the next two weekends before returning home July 12 to take on Colorado.
"Being an expansion franchise everybody expects us to lose every game," Gray said. "But, we've got the players and we can do it - we can win a lot of games this year. We've shown it in some of the games that we've played. It's just an attitude. We've got to bring in the right attitude day in and day out. We're turning that corner, we're getting close."