Christian Gomez says DC United is recovering its mystique, and it comes at the same time that he is recovering his.
Gomez scored his third goal of the season on a brilliant 30-yard free kick and set up Ben Olsen for his first as United held on for their third straight win, 2-1 over Houston before 18,078 at RFK Stadium.
United (3-3-1, 10 pts.) are now unbeaten in their last four matches, dating to the May 3, 1-1 tie with New England. It also means they end May unbeaten (3-0-1) and move into a fourth place tie in the Eastern Conference, pending the outcome of Chicago’s match with Real Salt Lake Sunday.
The Dynamo (2-5-1, 7 pts.), meanwhile, have lost five of their last six matches, but, for the time being, stay in fourth place in the Western Conference. Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear did not talk to the media after the match.
Gomez, in addition to his attacking return-to-form, also provided some key defensive cover inside his own end with a couple of key tackles in the second half.
United coach Tom Soehn said Gomez is starting to regain his MVP form, as he is becoming more creative and finding spaces.
“Christian’s going to find his way,” Soehn said. “He’s the MVP of the league for a reason. He’s the MVP of our team for a reason.”
That he did tonight.
His 30 yard stroke of brilliance put United ahead in the fourth minute, stroking his free kick over the Dynamo four-man wall and into the upper left corner of the net past outstretched goalkeeper Pat Onstad.
United pushed the attack against a porous Dynamo defense and were rewarded with another fine display from Gomez in the 27th minute.
After taking a pass from Luciano Emilio in the center of the field, Gomez dribbled just outside of the box before sliding a pass left to Ben Olsen, whose one-touch right-footed effort went off Onstad’s hands and into the right corner.
“Christian played such a perfect ball that I should score that,” Olsen said. “Christian just puts it on a platter there – the right weight on the ball, right in stride, and all I have to do is pass it in.”
Said Gomez through a translator: “When I got the ball at my feet, I heard Benny yelling for the ball, so I just turned and knew he was there. And I just played the ball behind the defender and he made a great finish.”
The Dynamo were not without chances in the first half, but Ching missed on three headers–two of them open looks from eight yards–and Brad Davis’ forceful 25 yard left-footed strike forced Perkins into a two-hand parry over the bar. Soehn said he thought United took the game to the Dynamo in the first half, but thought his team lost their shape defensively in the second half.
“I think, to the people in the crowd, people sitting up high, it looks like things are going [bad], but we know what’s going on,” said defender Bobby Boswell.
Both teams looked a bit porous defensively, but the Dynamo, with one exception, were not able to capitalize. In particular, Dynamo defender Ryan Cochrane struggled and was replaced by Craig Waibel to start the second half.
Houston certainly had numerous open chances throughout the match, and a Josh Gros handball gave the Dynamo a penalty in the 72nd minute, but United goalkeeper Troy Perkins – revealing no trade secrets on how he read the attempt correctly – dove to his right, got his right hand on the ball and deflected it off the post.
“It looked ugly, but it actually was not intentional,” Gros said of the handball. “I just mistimed my jump. I reached back with my head, and my arm flew up, hit the ball. I felt like an idiot, but it happened.”
After defender Facundo Erpen safely played the ball over the endline for a corner, Perkins thanked the post by kicking it.
On the play leading up to the penalty, Gros was reaching up to keep the dangerous-in-the-air Brian Ching from getting yet another header on goal, but got a lot of his forearm on the ball instead.
Gros, mismatched at the moment at left back, got beat – along with Fred – again a minute later when Dwayne DeRosario got around him and beat an out-of-position Perkins to cut the lead to 2-1.
Soehn is still not fully pleased with United despite the team’s current good run.
“We don’t have any shutouts yet, so I’m not happy,” Soehn said.
However, United held on, despite taking just one shot on goal in the second half. Soehn said his team let up a bit with the two-goal advantage.
The United coach said he likes facing the Dynamo because they play similar to United, and appreciates them as a hard working team.
And, though Emilio hasn’t scored since the second match of the season, Soehn isn’t worried, saying he – and Guy-Roland Kpene – have displayed high work rates, and expects the goals to come for him again in bunches.
Perkins says United won’t remain satisfied, however.
“It’s not just confidence, it’s relief that we’re not a bad team,” Perkins said of United’s improved confidence level. “The confidence is getting there, but there’s still some things that have to get fixed, as always. Tommy’s never going to be happy.”
Gomez said things are improving, though.
“The team is playing better Saturday after Saturday,” Gomez said. “We’re recovering that mystique that characterizes DC United.”
And Gomez is recovering the brilliance that United and their fans no doubt believe characterizes him.