For first time in 2013, and with Open Cup final ahead, Ben Olsen says DC United finally getting fit

WASHINGTON – If it seemed like an unusually high number of D.C. United’s shots were on target in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with the LA Galaxy at RFK Stadium, that’s because, well, they were.

For the club last in MLS in goals scored (18), finding the net has obviously been difficult. But in coming back twice to earn a point against LA, United attempted 12 shots and seven of them were on goal. That’s two less than their season high for shots on target (nine), which they’ve accomplished twice since Aug. 3. One came against Montreal in a 3-1 win – D.C.’s only multi-goal victory of the year – and the other in a 1-1 draw against Toronto FC. That’s it.

“I thought we got into enough dangerous spots to end the game,” D.C. coach Ben Olsen said following Tuesday’s training session. “I thought we ended particularly well and there was a good 15-20 minutes of energy that I haven’t seen from this group in a while, where we were the aggressors toward the end, physically.

“I think we’re getting, as strange as it may sound, three-quarters of the way through the season, we’re getting fit.”

For only the second time this season, United have recorded double digits in attempts on goal in four consecutive games and are quickly returning to health ahead of their US Open Cup showdown against Real Salt Lake on Oct. 1.

“I thought we did a better job of making sure our runs off the ball were real. They were explosive,” Olsen said. “The first half, we didn’t find them as much, but in the second half, the runs continued to be dynamic and we actually delivered the ball.”

One piece of the offensive puzzle that Olsen said had impressed him with his runs is 2012 Best XI selection Chris Pontius, who started for the first time in eight matches Saturday.

“Having Chris Pontius out there changes the way that we can play. It’s another weapon people have to deal with,” Olsen said. “I thought he had a good game because he was simple. He ran [well] and his movements were dynamic.”

Additionally, Olsen said he’s been very pleased with the smart runs of Conor Doyle when he’s on the field. Doyle frequently puts himself in good spots and seems to excel at near-post runs, as he has provided a piece up top that United were sorely lacking earlier this season.

“In particular off the bench, he really understands what we want from him and he finds himself in the right spots,” Olsen said. “He plays simple and knows when to get in the box and knows how to work that area.”

United will travel to New England Saturday, then to Toronto the following week in their two remaining matches before the Open Cup final.

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