Sunday, June 10, 2007

Oly-Oly-Olsen's Three -- D.C. United finally put it all together, playing their best game of the year by far. The squad was led, as always, by Ben Olsen, but today there was a twist. Benny wasn't just the field general. He tallied not just once, but three times. A hat trick for the United veteran. United defeated the division leading New York Red Bulls, in convincing manner. The final score was 4-2, but the game was dominated by United.

The crowd was driven into delirium by Olsen's exploits. There were some nervous moments after the Red Bulls answered Olsen's first goal before the cheers even died down. Dema Kovalenko's long shot was deflected in for an own goal that tied the score. Juan Pablo Angel seemed certain to put the Red Bulls in the lead, but Facundo Erpen was able to beat him to the ball and head clear a cross that Angel would surely have buried in the net. The teams went into the dressing room tied at halftime, which had to be disappointing for a United team that controlled most of the play.

Early in the second half, Fred broke down the middle of the field and sent a wide pass to Luciano Emilio. The Brazilian scored to put United in front, but there were still a few nervous moments to come. Josh Gros made a fine defensive play to deny Angel a scoring opportunity. Things seemed about to take a drastic turn for the worse, for the home squad, when Bobby Boswell was sent off with his second yellow card. In fact, playing a man down, United became an even more dangerous squad. Olsen got his second and third goals, and was nearly in position for a fourth. Gros went almost end-to-end with a give-and-go, but his shot was saved by a diving Ronald Wattereus.

Incidentally, the effort turned in by Josh Gros might have been the biggest difference between this game and past United games. There had been talk that Gros might be headed to the bench. While he had a couple of uncertain moments in the defense, he also made a couple of sparkling defensive plays. However, it was on offense that Gros's star really shone. He set up Olsen first goal with a great pass over the defense, and helped get the play started that resulted in Olsen's second goal. Still, the real star today was Ben Olsen. It was Olsen who got the standing ovation when he was removed in the final minute of play -- and it was well-deserved.

In the final minutes, the Red Bulls' Angel did notch a goal to bring the Red Bulls a little closer, with a couple of minutes to go. The former Aston Villa player played an excellent game -- almost every touch was perfectly played, and he was a constant threat. His free kicks were not sharp enough, but he is clearly a tremendous talent. Perhaps Angel was the most talented player on the field, but it was Ben Olsen's day. While Olsen's first two goals were nicely turned finishes of good team play, his third goal was just a picture perfect blast from about 25 or 30 yards. Bravo, Bennie.

If United gets to the MLS Cup, today is really the day that became a realistic quest -- the day the team began to play like potential champions. Everyone in the stadium felt it. RFK pulsed with excitement and ecstasy throughout the second half, but the last ten minutes were as raucous a celebration as one could expect for a regular-season game more than four months ahead of the championship. I cannot even begin to imagine the scene at RFK, if United is playing for the league title in October. Surely, the media will have to admit that, at least in the nation's capital, Americans have caught football (I guess that should be "soccer") fever.

United's back on track -- I might add that the FischFry is back as well, after a 2-week hiatus while I moved. It's been a tough time, as it truly was the "Move from Hell," but I wanted to share my joy with the wonderful showing today by D.C. United. United. United. Vamos United.

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