Led by a rampaging strike force, D.C. United gave their home fans their best performance in months on Saturday night, dominating the Chicago Fire in all areas with a 3-1 victory at RFK Stadium.
The Black-and-Red leaped out to an early lead and never looked back, going up 2-0 after 20 minutes with goals from Christian Gomez and Alecko Eskandarian before Ben Olsen added a third before the break. Jaime Moreno was the provider for all three tallies, and even got away with missing a first-half penalty kick.
In winning back-to-back games for the first time in 2004, United produced one of its most assured displays of movement and possession at a vital time, and have now closed to within three points of the second-place MetroStars.
The attacking trio of Gomez, Eskandarian and assist leader Moreno seems to have forged a strong understanding, making intelligent runs and providing incisive passes.
"The job up front was great today," said United coach Peter Nowak. "This kind of understanding has come with time."
Gomez scored his first MLS goal in the eighth minute with a well-taken curler over Fire goalkeeper Henry Ring. The Argentinian playmaker looked more comfortable than in any previous games, and might have picked up the MLS style just in time for the playoffs.
"I thought it was a great team effort. All the guys worked so hard for each other. It was scary how organized we were, because it made it easier to play," said Eskandarian.
"There were a couple times I messed up or should have done better, but we were so compact, so organized that we knew the next chance would come and then the next chance would come. It was an awesome team effort, I think the best I've ever seen our team play."
United captain Ryan Nelsen and his fellow defenders were in imperious form in the back, shutting down Fire strikers Nate Jaqua and Damani Ralph with organized, physical play.
"I thought it all started from the boys up front. The top five made it so easy for us at the back. When there's pressure on the midfield ball, it makes it so much easier for us," said Nelsen.
Said Ralph: "It was a tough one. They came out in the first half and made it difficult, and they got an early goal, which in the game of soccer is very helpful, especially playing at home with such emotion. We came out flat, and couldn't get it together. We've just got to move on."
Ralph acknowledged D.C.'s physical play and gave United their due.
"That's part of the game, and you've got to live with it," he said. "Praise to them: every dog has their day, and today was their day."
Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Socer or its clubs.