A week after Ben Olsen praised his outsidemidfielders for their defensive work, D.C. United's duo of young wingers turned theirattention to the opposite end of the field. Danny Cruz and Nick DeLeon dominated the attack on Fridaynight, each scoring a goal as the Black-and-Red whitewashed FC Dallas.
"They had a big impact on the offensiveend," Olsen acknowledged after D.C.'s first victory of the season. "But they also had a big impact onthe defensive end. We don't alwayssee that. I certainly do. I certainly appreciated the way theyworked both sides of the ball."
Work is the perfect way to describe what hascome to be expected of United's wide midfielders. Against Vancouver, Cruz and DeLeon drastically changedD.C.'s defensive posture. Pressinghigh against the Whitecaps' back four, the duo made Vancouver's defense lookuncomfortable throughout the match.
The same happened on Friday night, but for avery different reason. With Uniteddominating possession for the first time this season, service found its waywide as D.C.'s central players distributed with aplomb. DeLeon was the first to break throughwith a high-end finish in the 60th minute, taking Maicon Santos' cross off hischest before powering a left-footed shot past Kevin Hartman.For the rookie - who has admitted to strugglingwith confidence early in his MLS career - the goal served as further validationof his considerable skills.
"Last game, I was lacking a littleconfidence going forward. That iswhy I was playing kind of timid, just trying to keep possession," notedthe soft-spoken 21-year-old. "But I feel the more I play, the more I get comfortable and myconfidence goes up. That's whathappened this game."
Though he'd given United a critical second-halflead, DeLeon wasn't done. Just sixminutes after his strike, the rookie from Louisville went to work as a set-upman. After slipping past a pair ofdefenders down the left sideline, DeLeon spotted Cruz streaking into the Dallasbox. Knowing all too well thethankless work expected of a winger, the rookie knew he had little choice butto feed his counterpart.
"He made a fifty yard run, you have toreward him," DeLeon said of the 66th-minute tally. "As open as he was, you just haveto. On his part it was a greatfinish."
"It was fun to be out there tonight andcontribute in a different way," added Cruz. "I pride myself in defensive work as well so I wastrying to work on both tonight."
For Cruz, the goal was a just reward followinga night of hard work. Thediminutive yet feisty player has often drawn comparisons to his coach, andafter the match it was clear that Olsen has a soft spot for Cruz.
United's second-year coach simply chose aninteresting way of showing it.
"He's just a pain in the ass," Olsen said with asmile. "I would hate to playagainst him. He's a really competitive guy and he just doesn't quit."