D.C. United continued their dogged march towards the top of the Eastern Conference on Saturday, with an assured 3-0 victory over Chivas USA in a match played under draining conditions at sun-drenched RFK Stadium.
Confident finishing and crisp combination play from Dema Kovalenko, Santino Quaranta and Jamil Walker helped United stroll to their fourth consecutive victory, while a sliding Chivas has more difficult questions to answer.
Chivas USA striker Arturo Torres spurned his team's first opportunity of the match in the early minutes, firing high after Armando Begines surged down the left wing to cross from the D.C. endline.
United showed some flair of their own in the 10th minute, with a slick combination play between Josh Gros and Kovalenko after Christian Gomez opened up space with a powerful run across the face of the Chivas defense. Gros cut in from the right flank and played a one-two with Kovalenko before unleashing a left-footed curler to the far post, but the ambitious shot flew just wide.
Both teams were clearly feeling the scalding temperatures at field level -- measured at more than 110 degrees at the start of the match -- and as a consequence the game's pace was more languid than the MLS norm. Combined with the chants from both sets of fans echoing around RFK, it created an the atmosphere reminiscent of Chivas' Mexican League roots.
Piled on top of the draining August match schedule, it seemed likely that the hot conditions would claim one of the players eventually, and United's Ben Olsen was the first casualty when he played a long ball and fell to the turf untouched. He tried to play through the pain, but eventually it forced D.C. head coach Peter Nowak to make an early substitution as Olsen came off with a strained oblique muscle in the 26th minute.
United should have scored against the run of play in the 32nd minute when Quaranta's clever back heel sprang Walker in alone, but with only Brad Guzan to beat, Walker fired his attempt straight into the Chivas netminder's chest.
Antonio Martinez then tested Gros and defender Bryan Namoff on United's right, and he got clear to the endline again four minutes after the half-hour mark, but his promising cross was deflected by Namoff and Nick Rimando was able to gather the ball.
The game finally erupted as United slashed open the Chivas backline with a surprising run from Bobby Boswell in the 41st minute. The center back created a turnover in midfield and continued forward, getting in behind the defense by using Gomez for a wall pass and squaring to Quaranta for an easy finish into a wide open goal.
Before Chivas USA could even lift their heads, United struck again to dig an even deeper hole for their Western Conference guests.
Having spurned several opportunities earlier, Walker suddenly flashed a glimpse of his true potential moments before halftime when he made an aggressive, slashing run right at the heart of the visitors' back line, breezing past Begines to latch onto Kovalenko's through ball. The former Chivas expansion draft pick advanced towards Guzan and rolled a clinical finish past the young 'keeper as he stepped off his line, giving D.C. a 2-0 advantage.
While Chivas' skill and technique was evident, the reigning champs' experience showed as they patiently knocked the ball around the field to run the visitors ragged in the second half.
The architects of D.C.'s second goal switched roles to create a third in the 64th minute, as Walker flicked on Namoff's long clearance for Kovalenko to run onto, and the Ukrainian-born midfielder made no mistake as he dribbled into the box and slotted a low shot past Guzan and off the far post.
A quarter of an hour from full time, Costa Rican international Douglas Sequeira created Chivas' best chance of the half when he leaped high to win a free kick service in the United box, but his glancing header spun just wide of Rimando's right post. Sequeira reflected his team's downcast mood as swung his arm in frustration at the missed opportunity.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Dema Kovalenko (D.C. United)
Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
Chivas USA (3-17-3) vs. D.C. United (11-6-5)
August 13, 2005 -- RFK Stadium
DC -- Santino Quaranta 3 (Bobby Boswell 1, Christian Gomez 5) 41
DC -- Jamil Walker 1 (Dema Kovalenko 3, Brian Carroll 3) 43
DC -- Dema Kovalenko 3 (Jamil Walker 3, Bryan Namoff 1) 64
Chivas USA -- Brad Guzan, Jesus Ochoa (Mike Munoz 75), Douglas Sequeira, Armando Begines, Francisco Mendoza, Hector Cuadros, Ramon Ramirez, Orlando Perez, Arturo Torres (Rodrigo Lopez 84), Isaac Romo (Milton Blanco 75), Antonio Martinez.
Substitutes Not Used: Javier Barragan, Ezra Hendrickson.
TOTAL SHOTS: 9 (3 tied with 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (3 tied with 1); FOULS: 8 (Hector Cuadros 2); OFFSIDES: 7 (Antonio Martinez 3); CORNER KICKS: 4 (Ramon Ramirez 4); SAVES: 5 (Brad Guzan 5)
D.C. United -- Nick Rimando, Bryan Namoff, Bobby Boswell, Brandon Prideaux, Dema Kovalenko, Brian Carroll, Christian Gomez (John Wilson 57), Ben Olsen (Clyde Simms 27), Joshua Gros, Santino Quaranta (Matt Nickell 82), Jamil Walker.
Substitutes Not Used: Kenny Arena, Nana Kuffour, Shawn Kuykendall, Troy Perkins, Jason Thompson, Nick Van Sicklen.
TOTAL SHOTS: 15 (Jamil Walker 5); SHOTS ON GOAL: 8 (Jamil Walker 3); FOULS: 17 (Ben Olsen 3, Brandon Prideaux 3); OFFSIDES: 3 (Santino Quaranta 3); CORNER KICKS: 4 (Santino Quaranta 3); SAVES: 3 (Nick Rimando 3)
DC -- Clyde Simms (caution; Pushing, Holding) 30
CHV -- Ramon Ramirez (caution; Pushing, Holding) 35
Referee: Marcel Yonan
Referee's Assistants: -Thomas Supple; C.J. Morgante
4th Official: Mark Geiger
Time of Game: 1:51
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-94-degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.