Could DC United's 2-1 stoppage-time victory over the Chicago Fire be the turning point in what has been, to this point, a largely disappointing season? The Fire have been widely regarded as the best team thus far in MLS, but United earned their first road win despite playing a man down and despite giving up yet another soft goal from a broken play. The type of play that was expected of the Black-and-Red has been starting to flourish in the last couple of weeks, but an exhilarating attacking display on the road has to have the front office feeling a little better about their 0ff-season roster surgery. To the talking points, Robin!
* Remember just a month or so ago when I was lamenting just two shots on goal at home. How 'bout these apples? 15 shots (10 on frame) to 9 for Chicago (just 5 on target). Gallardo was wheelin' and dealin' in the attacking midfield, constantly springing runners for tries on goal. This is the type of offense that was widely anticipated. This is DC United soccer.
* Emilio is back, baby! Much like last year, Lucigol started like molasses, but is starting to find his form towards the middle of the season. He was always lurking for the garbage, and his attacking intent caused the spill that Moreno prodded home for the equalizer and resulted, of course, in that late winner. These are huge signs because both goals resulted from Emilio creating a chance for himself by taking on and beating defenders. Early in the season, he was just not sharp on the ball at all, and United weren't creating chances through other players that led to stretched, and thus vulnerable, defenses.
* If only Fred could finish! Sweet baby Jebus--how many chances did Gallardo spring Fred for on those runs cutting in from the left? There were at least 3-4 where the Brazilian darted through onto a Gallardo ball, only to have his shot parried or deflected. If he can start sticking a few of those chances in the net, we're going to start catching LA in the goal-scoring sweepstakes pretty quickly.
* The defensive miscues continue. They were somewhat more mitigated this week, but yet again, a stupid turnover in midfield leads to a quick Chicago break and a goal for the completely talentless Chad Barrett, who it must be said, did do his best to pass up the chance, only to have McTavish's heroic efforts to get back for the challenge result in him deflecting a weak dribbler past Wells.
* The missing heart returns. Going down a goal on the road, you could be forgiven for thinking, "oh crap, not again". United haven't exactly been road warriors, nor have they been particularly inspiring when playing from a deficit. But, like in the home match against Toronto, United found the heart to fight their way back into the game. And, pardon the cynicism, you'd also have been forgiven for thinking that United would get back into it just in time to surrender a late goal, as has so often killed the team this season, particularly after Namoff was sent off. But to actually turn the tables and get a late winner of their own spells T-U-R-N-I-N-G P-O-I-N-T to me.
United fans everywhere will be waking to an encouraging afterglow this morning. We've climbed off the bottom of the Eastern Conference, and a victory against the hated Metrobulltards next weekend will lift us even further, possibly seeing us well and truly back into the fray. We finally got a victory on the road, and it came against the best team in the league thus far. Of course, Soehn will have a testing go of it next weekend. The Bulls will probably be without the soon to be departed Altidore, and won't have had a chance to use the transfer funds to build their squad, but United will be missing the suspended Namoff and Gallardo.
Namoff has been a stalwart at the back, but I think we can probably shift Martinez to right back and bring on Burch on the left, and still be relatively solid. The bigger miss is going to be Gallardo. He was creating so much that was dangerous for United last night. Where will we find that generative spark next weekend? And why did he have to be suspended next weekend, a game for which I'm packing up the Fullback Clan for a three-hour tour through the wilds of south-central Pennsylvania and Maryland? Ah well, I'll take a potentially season-changing victory over a fleeting moment of disappointment any day of the week.
(Good God, it feels good to say that with confidence!)