Prior to Saturday’s already pivotal clash against Chivas USA, favorable results earlier in the day gave D.C. United an even bigger chance to gain ground in the MLS playoff race.
With that at stake, DC responded in earnest, as a Charlie Davies hat trick, including two goals in the first 15 minutes, powered them to a 3-0 win on the road.
Head coach Ben Olsen’s decision to start Chris Pontius up top next to Davies — the first time the duo had started together there all season — paid dividends, as Pontius set up Davies on all three goals.
“You saw the balls that he was able to get me in front of goal where he gave me a goal-scoring situation and I was able to convert on all three,” Davies told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the match. “The chemistry was great; we worked really well together.”
The hat-trick hero also benefited from DC’s lengthy time off — 20 days without a game — heading into Saturday’s match.
“I needed this break that we had where I could clear my mind mentally and really refocus, get my body back to 100 percent,” Davies said. “This past week, I’ve trained the best I had all year, so I felt ready to make an impact on this game and help my team out.”
The win moved DC into a wild card spot in the playoff standings, past Chivas USA, one point ahead of the New York Red Bulls, and just a point behind the Houston Dynamo.
But almost as important on the night was getting Davies back on track, as he scored for the first time since June 25.
“The most encouraging thing was not really his goals but the work ethic and the positive nature of his runs, how he created those chances,” midfielder Santino Quaranta told MLSsoccer.com. “You’ve got to give Chris a lot of credit as well.”
After setting up Davies to complete the hat trick in the game’s 66th minute, Pontius’ night ended on a sour note just two minutes later. The attacker slid into a challenge with Chivas defender David Júnior Lopes, and the two collided awkwardly.
Players on the field waived frantically to get medical staff on the field, and Pontius had to be stretchered off, where he was taken to the hospital almost immediately for X-rays on his right ankle.
It was a serious concern on an otherwise outstanding night for DC, who responded when they were given an opportunity to make some noise in the playoff picture.
“We knew it was big with the other results tonight,” Quaranta said. “[We] came in with a good mentality, good attitude, everybody did their part and our counterattack was fantastic.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. You can follow him on Twitter @travismclark.