Santos and Pontius form lethal combination up front
Ten of them.
In Saturday night's 3-2 win over Houston, D.C. United's forward tandem of Chris Pontius and Maicon Santos were as versatile as they were lethal. Against a stingy Dynamo defense, the duo proved the perfect complement for each other as they combined for two goals and an assist in a banner evening for the Black-and-Red attack.
"That is why we are doing so well, because those guys are doing what they do best," said captain Dwayne De Rosario. "Chris is getting in behind and Maicon is holding up the ball and getting into good areas. At times when they have to pull out a big play, they are pulling it out."
In just their second match teaming together, the growing chemistry between Pontius and Santos was evident early on Saturday night. Eleven minutes in, the Californian rounded Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall on a breakaway only to see his scoring angle closed off by a pair of Dynamo defenders. Instead of firing an ambitious attempt on net, Pontius chose to give his strike partner a chance. The decision proved spot-on, as Santos nodded home his fifth goal of the season on a perfectly delivered cross.
Despite the early success, the duo's effectiveness actually peaked later in the match. As Daniel Woolard served in the 70th-minute cross that eventually led to Santos' game-winning header, Pontius dashed towards the Houston penalty area. The 24-year-old's run drew just enough attention from Geoff Cameron to create space for Santos, and the red-hot Brazilian did not forgive the defender's mistake.
"Maicon is a big boy," said United coach Ben Olsen. "[Santos] is willing to do a lot of the work as far as holding the balls up and doing the fighting, and Chris is very mobile underneath and in behind, so he plays off of him very well. For now, it's a good partnership."
Both parties, neither of which began the season as a starting forward, pointed to improved communication as the source for Saturday's success. With a week to prepare for the Dynamo's organized - but not overwhelmingly mobile - defense, an open dialogue between the strike pair became a daily occurrence at training.
"It comes from practice," Santos noted. "We've been talking a lot. Every time the ball comes to me, I say stay close to me it is going to bounce to you. He's been listening to me and I listen to him, so we've been working really well together."
Most promising about D.C.'s unexpected forward combination is what lies ahead. With less than 160 minutes of actual playing time together, the duo has had relatively little time to gel.
"Consistency," replied Pontius, when asked what was next for the Black-and-Red's strike pair. "There are times where one is going to have an off game, but can the other step up and put up some numbers? Your job as a forward is to score. If we can do that, this team will be successful."