No De Ro? No problem.
OK, that’s not really true. But in the two games since D.C. United captain Dwayne De Rosario sprained his MCL, the club has secured all six points, putting together its first winning streak since June when it wrapped a four-game tear with — you guessed it — a 1-0 win at the Philadelphia Union.
As was the case in that contest, United on Thursday night at PPL Park struggled offensively but got the job done thanks to their resolve and Philadelphia’s lack of a killer instinct. Yes, these two wins over New England and Philadelphia without De Rosario have shown how lost United’s attack can seem without the reigning MVP, but they’ve also shown that coach Ben Olsen and Co. are still capable of grabbing a result against inferior opposition.
So how will United fare without De Rosario against tougher tests? With their next three against Chivas USA, the Portland Timbers and Toronto FC, they won’t have to deal with that question for a while.
Here are some of my observations from Thursday night’s match:
— United (14-10-5) now sit in fourth place in the East, one point ahead of Houston and two up on Columbus with equal games played. With last-place Chivas coming to town Sunday (7 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, Galavision), D.C. should be able to bolster that edge. So while United making the playoffs is far from a done deal, it’s not too early to talk about seeding. Although we know being in the top three means a first-round bye, let’s not forget the importance of being fourth instead of fifth: home-field advantage in the wild-card game. For a United team unbeaten in its past 14 home games, that would be huge.
— It was another early hook for Branko Boskovic, two days after he vented to reporters about often being substituted early. But again, it’s hard to argue with the result since his replacement, Maicon Santos, helped set up Lionard Pajoy’s winner with the long ball that freed Chris Pontius on the play. I’m guessing the playmaker will be coming off the bench Sunday, with Olsen picking a lineup of: Hamid; Najar, McDonald, Jakovic, Korb; DeLeon, Kitchen, Neal, Pontius; Pajoy, Santos.
— In my appearance last week on NASN’s “MLS in 30,” I identified Boskovic and Santos as key players for United to lean on in De Rosario’s absence. It wasn’t a terribly bold prediction, but it’s looking like I was on the right track considering Boskovic notched an assist Saturday against New England and Santos picked up a helper last night. Down the stretch, I’m particularly keeping an eye on Santos, who hasn’t scored since May but has the ability to get hot in a hurry.