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A Night of Joy

Last night (September 2) DC United dismantled the Chicago Fire, 4-0, in one of the most pleasant nights at Audi Field in a long while. For starters, the weather was close to perfect, sunny, in the high 70s, with low humidity. DC started the evening two points behind the Fire for the last Eastern Conference playoff spot, so this was a pivotal game.

Coach Wayne Rooney shook up the starting lineup, giving the nod to Ted Ku, Eric Davis and Andy Najar. The result was the most attack-minded lineup I have seen this year, and they all performed well.

The game got off to a great start in the 9th minute. Klich put a long pass on a dime to Benteke, who settled, juked the defender and scored. He was overdue to break out of his goalless drought (since June!) and he did so with beauty and skill.

In the 20th minute, Benteke played assist man, drawing several defenders to himself and hitting Ted Ku in stride for a clinical finish to make it 2-0. Ted was so happy, jumping up and making a fist, it was contagious. It was an “oh, yeah, this can be fun! This can be joyful!” moment I need occasionally to remind me why I follow soccer.

In the 40th minute, Benteke found Ted Ku again on a goalward run, and Ted was taken down hard in the box by Carlos Teran. While everyone was looking at the ref for the obvious penalty call, Teran tried to clear the ball but only bounced it off his other foot for a bizarre own goal. Even the players were confused for a bit, but no penalty needed, it was already 3-0.

The second half was not as dominant, and Chicago had some good chances, but it stayed 3-0 until Benteke got a cross from Durkin in the first minute of stoppage time and easily scored his second goal to make it 4-0. Fun, fun, fun.

It was not a 90-minute clinic. There were a fair number of errant passes, but the attacking was consistently dangerous until the 70th minute or so. Oh, it was a joy to watch.

Alex Bono is definitely not as adept with his feet as Tyler Miller, but he is a really good shot-stopper. The defense was a little shaky in the second half, but between Bono’s skills and Chicago’s misses, it was a clean sheet. Donovan Pines, after starting much of the season, remained on the bench again.

So good to see Benteke back in form. And Ted Ku was a sparkplug. He even steered Pirani out of trouble after a foul and face-to-face confrontation in the second half. Ted doesn’t look like he has any pace, but when a possible goal-scoring situation results, he seems to find another gear, and he has great dribbling skills.

It was nice to take a no-rush, enjoy the moment approach to leaving the game. The players came over to acknowledge the fan section behind the goal (see below) and even sent a few claps to the fan-lite section in the northern West Stands. The overall crowd was sparse, perhaps due to the Labor Day weekend.

Looking at the playoff picture in the East: we are currently in 9th place (the last playoff spot) with 33 points. Chicago is 10th with 32, Charlotte is 11th with 31 (and a game in hand), and NYCFC is 12th with 30 (and an extra game played). Ahead of us, Montreal has 35 points in 8th, Nashville has 40 points in 7th, and Atlanta has 42 points in 6th (with an extra game played). We have a solid shot to make the playoffs, but we need to keep winning some of our games. That no longer seems as difficult after last night. We play in Charlotte in another pivotal game in two weeks, but San Jose at home next Saturday is next up. One game at a time.


The Nest Liner

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