Top spot in Eastern Conference now up for grabs
If D.C. United's players seemed unusuallyinterested in the outcome of Wednesday's New York Red Bulls match againstChivas USA, it's not because they've taken a sudden interest in the evolvingcareer path of American starlet Juan Agudelo.
Simply put, Ben Olsen's side was looking for some help from Chivas USA, and they got it. The visitors' 1-1 draw at Red Bull Arena kept United within striking distance of conference-leading New York entering the weekend, and left some satisfied viewers in the Washington area.
"Oh yeah. I'll be watching," midfielder Nick DeLeon admitted when asked about the match early on Wednesday. "I like watching allthe games, but especially since this is our conference. It's fun to see how teams move up anddown, especially how we are moving up."
Unlike end-of-the-year scoreboard watching,where seasons and often jobs hang in the balance, Wednesday night wasn't nearly as nerve-wracking for the Black-and-Red. D.C. sits second in the Eastern Conference thanks toconsecutive home wins and, despite having played more than any other team inthe league, remains in the conference's top three in points per game. Still,the opportunity to climb into atop the table isn't one United has had in recentyears, or one the club can afford to pass up.
"Anytime you have the opportunity to go infirst you want to capitalize on it," noted captain Dwayne De Rosario. "The main thing is not thinkingtoo much on the New York result if things don't go our way in thatrespect. We still have to go outthere and battle on Saturday."
The last time D.C. had a similar opportunitythis late in the season was June 13 of 2009. Playing against the Chicago Fire, Jaime Moreno and ChristianGomez scored in a 2-1 win that vaulted United into first place. Both Dejan Jakovic and Chris Pontiuswent the full ninety minutes on that day three years ago, but they are the onlytwo players on the current roster who have experienced first place inBlack-and-Red. For many of thosewho have joined the team since, returning D.C. to its rightful spot atop thetable is of the utmost importance.
"My main thing since I've been here - andknowing the history of this club - is that these fans deserve the upper echelonof everything," added defender Brandon McDonald. "These fans are here day in and day out. Winning, losing, they are over therethrough rain, sleet and snow. Seeing that, that's what drives me."
In addition to the possibility of first place,Olsen's charges can also look forward to a lengthy break from league playfollowing this weekend. But whenasked which of the two would be a more just reward for topping archrival NewEngland on Saturday, Nick DeLeon answered bluntly for all of the D.C. lockerroom.
"First place," laughed the rookie. "100 percent."