Lots to talk about after a very satisfying 4-0 win for D.C. United over the Vancouver Whitecaps tonight at RFK. Obviously, the biggest story of the game was the performance of Joe Willis, who made six saves and kept a clean sheet in his first-ever MLS first-team action. However, I'm saving all the Willis stuff for a feature that should be coming later tonight, so check back here often. On to other things.
D.C. United assistant Chad Ashton ran the sidelines with Ben Olsen serving a one-match ban after being ejected from last week's 3-3 draw against Toronto FC (Olsen watched the game from a box at RFK and was seen passing through the D.C. United locker room after the game), and he was pleased with the performance. "I don't remember the last time we had a game like that," Ashton said. Indeed, the last time D.C. United defeated an MLS opponent 4-0 was in 2007, when FC Dallas was put to the sword in Texas.
Ashton was full of praise for United's killer instinct, saying, "Earlier this season, we would have just dropped off, and said, 'OK, now we've gotta defend.' Tonight, we kept playing."
Dwayne De Rosario's performance, in which he recorded two assists and could have scored three goals, was considered particularly laudable by Ashton: "He's a game-changer," the coach said of the player, "a play here, a play there. In the second half they really started to converge on him with bodies and our guys did a good job running off him, and that created a lot of holes. Not only does he make plays, but other teams are so aware of him, he creates space just with his presence."
It was a good night for United on the out-of-town scoreboard as well, with 2-2 draws by New York (against Chicago) and by Philadelphia (against Dallas) bringing United within one point of third place (and an automatic playoff spot) in the Eastern Conference. Even better news is that United has played just 22 games, tied with Philadelphia for the fewest in the conference. It should be a very tight race over the final two months.
The one sour note on the evening was the yellow card issued to Charlie Davies in the 60th minute for dissent. At least, it was dissent according to the official box score. The American international apparently said a few magic words to referee Hilario Grajeda when he did not award Davies a free kick on the halfway line (Davies was not available for comment after the game). In the locker room, United President Kevin Payne asked one of the United PR staff to check if Davies had suffered any fouls since being fined $1,000 for this piece of showmanship back on June 18 against Real Salt Lake.
I did a little digging for myself, and found that in six appearances since the fine, Davies had suffered six fouls. By comparison, Davies had suffered 11 fouls in 12 appearances prior to the fine. By straight averages, it seems pretty consistent. However, the foul calls do cluster on a game-by-game basis. For example, Davies has made five appearances (totaling 230 minutes) in games where he hasn't suffered a foul at all. But on the other hand, Davies has suffered three fouls in a game twice (April 29 at Colorado and July 16 at FC Dallas, on either side of the fine line, if you'll pardon the expression). It probably speaks more to the inconsistency of MLS officiating than any conspiracy on the league's part, but it will be worth watching down the stretch of this season.
OK, enough for now. Ratings and Joe Willis feature soon. United next play on Thursday night at the Chicago Fire. That match kicks off at 9:00 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2.