D.C. United are getting pretty good at this winning ugly thing.
With a 1-0 triumph at Toronto FC on Saturday, the club improved to 4-0-1 since captain Dwayne De Rosario suffered a sprained knee ligament. And three of those wins have been 1-0 results.
For a reference point, United recorded a grand total two 1-0 wins in the 28 games before De Rosario’s injury. And Saturday’s victory was particularly gritty, with United striker Hamdi Salihi tapping home the 88th-minute winner on a botched save from ex-D.C. goalkeeper Milos Kocic.
But with coach Ben Olsen now regularly deploying a 4-5-1 formation, it looks like this is United’s identity without De Rosario. And it’s hard to argue with the results, as United find themselves in strong playoff positioning with two games remaining.
Here are a few other observations from Saturday’s match:
— Olsen clearly embraces the 4-5-1 with Lionard Pajoy as the lone striker, but I’d like to see more of the lineup he deployed for the game’s final 13 minutes: Salihi and Maicon Santos up top, with Branko Boskovic in a playmaker role flanked by Chris Pontius and Nick DeLeon. While Salihi and Santos might seem too similar to find chemistry, United went 2-0-2 and scored six goals in four games they started together this spring.
— With six goals in 937 minutes this season, Salihi is averaging 0.58 goals every 90 minutes. That leads United, and is ninth in the league for players with at least 700 minutes played. The players in front of him? Alan Gordon, Chris Wondolowski, Alvaro Saborio, Thierry Henry, Danny Koevermans, Steven Lenhart, Kenny Cooper and Eddie Johnson.
— Bill Hamid continues to come up huge for this team. I explored Hamid’s fine form of late in Friday’s paper, and against Toronto the young goalkeeper again saved his back line with a couple big saves. If Hamid is on his game come playoff time, he could make United a team no one wants to face.