Despite their prolific resumes, Dwayne De Rosario and Hamdi Salihi experienced some notable struggles finding the back of the net in this season's early stages. But in recent weeks, they sure have made up for lost time.
De Rosario scored twice and Salihi added the clincher in D.C. United's 3-1 win over Toronto FC on Saturday, a triumph that moved the home side to 7-4-3. While De Rosario, the reigning league Most Valuable Player, went scoreless in eight games to start the season, he has notched five tallies in six matches since. And Salihi, a prized offseason acquisition, has seen his first four MLS goals come in the past five games.
"At the start of the season, the main thing was we were winning," De Rosario said. "Whether I'm scoring or not is not really a big, major concern. I like scoring — that's what I do. But I go to win. If it takes me scoring and stepping up and taking the chance, I'll take it."
The win was the second in a row for United, who have won back-to-back contests twice in the past month after going nearly three years without a winning streak.
"Every game, we play better and better," Salihi said. "I hope we stay this way, and from two games now we try to put three games together. And like this, we can show we are a team playing for the playoffs."
Toronto, on the other hand, dropped to a 0-9-0 with the loss, moving one defeat away from matching Real Salt Lake's record 10-game losing streak in 2005.
United coach Ben Olsen rolled the dice with his lineup, starting just six players at the same positions they played in a 2-0 win over Colorado on Wednesday. His tactics were even more unusual once the match got under way, as D.C. relied on a heavy interchange of positions, turning the squad's typical 4-4-2 formation into an alignment more akin to the 4-3-3 that Toronto plays.
"I thought early in the game," Olsen said, "the 4-4-2 wasn't flying."
Added De Rosario: "We have the players that can adjust and adapt. We have guys who can play numerous positions on the fly, and you saw that tonight."
United wasted no time pouncing on the vulnerable back line of their winless guests, scoring the fourth-fastest goal in club history. Midfielder Branko Boskovic, making just his third start of the season, served a bending free kick into the box that De Rosario nodded home at the game's 57-second mark.
For Boskovic, the assist marked the injury-plagued Montenegrin's first statistical contribution in league play since joining the organization as a designated player in June 2010.
"I still think he's a rhythm player and he needs these games," Olsen said. "He's only going to improve. We've done him a little bit of an injustice in that he hasn't played a lot of minutes. That's no way to get a rhythm. That's not an easy way to play. But he's been a pro about it."
United went up 2-0 two minutes before halftime. Making his first start of 2012, veteran Josh Wolff sprayed a ball out wide to streaking right back Chris Korb, whose centering feed was converted by De Rosario.
The brace gave the Canadian 10 goals against his former MLS clubs — Toronto, New York, Houston and San Jose — since he joined United last June, including five in three games against Toronto, his hometown team.
The visitors pulled one back in the 71st minute when substitute Danny Koevermans knocked in Julian de Guzman's long free kick.
But United attacked with renewed vigor after the goal, and it took just two minutes for the home side to go back up by two. Nineteen-year-old winger Andy Najar turned to his typically electric footwork, beating his defender to the end line before finding Salihi in front of goal for a classic poacher's finish.
It was the type of response United haven't typically produced during their four-year playoff drought, and a sign this could be a very different D.C. team.
"We were in trouble there," Olsen said. "We're just defending, kind of grinding it out, dodging bullets here and there. And the goal woke us up."
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