One needs to look no further than last season to find an MLS club riding a stingy defense and opportunistic goal-scoring tendencies to the MLS Cup Final. The Houston Dynamo finished the 2011 regular season 4-0-1 during a five-game stretch in which they conceded no more than a single goal per contest. In those matches, Houston scored nine times, allowing a mere three tallies and posting two shutout victories.
Does that sound familiar? It should. As the 2012 campaign draws to a close, D.C. United is riding a five-game unbeaten streak, going 4-0-1 over that stretch. In those games, United has scored six times, conceding only twice and earning three shutout wins. United has two big regular season games remaining, but if the Black-and-Red continue to use the same results-driven recipe, they may not be the Eastern Conference favorite in November, but they will be the team that no one wants to line up against.
"Our group commitment defensively has been very good and its what is needed to get into the playoffs and ultimately make a run," said United Head Coach Ben Olsen.
Olsen has found a defensive line-up that has gelled and posture that is producing. With goalkeeper Bill Hamid supported by Andy Najar, Dejan Jakovic, Brandon McDonald and Chris Korb across the back line, United has held firm when their opponent charges. Communication has been the key to allowing fewer quality chances and, when a break-down does occur, sheer effort has bailed the club out of the jam. On the attack, Chris Pontius, Lewis Neal, Lionard Pajoy, Branko Boskovic, and Hamdi Salihi have all provided key goals with limited opportunities.
Continuing this form is central to the Black-and-Red gaining a result next weekend against Columbus and to a successful 2012 post-season run. Last year, Houston rode the late-season momentum into the playoffs and to the Eastern Conference crown and, while most United supporters and pundits alike may agree that it is too early to book passage to the Cup Final, similar results will prove that big things are still to come for D.C. United.