Pontius Hat Trick Leads D.C. Past Red Bulls Shambolic Defending

Two hot teams met Sunday at R.F.K. Stadium, as New York headed down I-95 to the Nation’s Capitol to face D.C. United. The home team, buoyed by the blossoming of a fit Chris Pontius, struck early and often as they defeated the Red Bulls, 4-1.

New York was riding a four match unbeaten streak, where the team had scored fifteen goals and earned ten out of a possible twelve points during this stretch. The one thing that has been a hindrance is their propensity to give up goals to their opposition.  On the other side of the pitch, DC United was in the midst of a five match unbeaten streak (2-0-3) and the winner of the night’s game would take second place in the Eastern Conference. Sadly for Red Bulls fans, their team’s open-door policy for terrible defending continued Sunday, as Pontius scored three goals on the day to lead the way for the Black and Red.

The lousy defending appeared almost immediately for New York and continued throughout the first half. Pontius was able to get on the board in the 8th minute, as he eluded two defenders after stripping Thierry Henry and ripped a fantastic ball. The shot bent past Ryan Meara for the first of his hat trick.

The second came on a fortunate bounce for Pontius in the 32nd minute, depositing a loose ball in close. Maicon Santos fought through three defenders down the left, bringing the ball along the end line. He delivered the cross, and a bad bounce off of Connor Lade’s heel gave Pontius the easy chance.

More would come from DC less than five minutes later. The Red Bull defenders were caught ball-watching and gave rookie standout Nick DeLeon plenty of space. His shot caromed off the right leg of Markus Holgersson and deflected away from Meara and into the net for a three goal lead.

Pontius’ hat trick was completed in the 70th minute as he plowed through the defense and never took his eye of the prize. The UC-Santa Barbara product caught Holgersson flat footed, and Victor Palsson’s last-ditch effort couldn’t get a touch on the ball. Pontius buried his chance, which capped a victory that had seemed clinched by the end of the 1st half.

“I think first that New York came here with a little bit of a watered down team, and it showed at times,” said D.C. United manager Ben Olsen.“But I feel like we took advantage of that, and that’s what you have to do.” On Chris Pontius’ first goal, Olsen added, “He set the tone early. I thought the entire team was buzzing early and the ball was moving.”

The only saving grace from the Red Bulls’ perspective was a fantastic finish in the 72nd minute by Thierry Henry. New York earned a set piece just outside the D.C. area, and the wily veteran bent the ball over the wall and into the near corner for his eighth goal of the season, tying Chris Wondolowski for the league lead.

What did Thierry Henry think about D.C.’s domination? “No excuses. They were good. They scored early, they kept putting on pressure. They could have scored more.” D.C. United did look better on the ball, but yet again none of the goals came from 2011 MLS Most Valuable Player Dwayne DeRosario. The attacking midfielder has yet to find goal this season, a drought that contrasts with the form he showed to close the 2011 season, notching 13 goals in 17 games with D.C. United.  After the game Ben Olsen noted DeRosario’s lack of goals but stated that the captain and designated player was more pleased with the team’s results, saying his trophy case for individual awards is pretty full.

The first of three between these two sides went to D.C. United, with the next coming in late June at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.

MLS Talk Writer Robert Hay Jr. contributed to this article.

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