Thomas Rongen has had to fiddle with his lineup more than he ever imagined in his first season as D.C. United coach. Last night, he made a switch he was hoping not to make, and it paid off quicker than he thought it would in United's 3-0 win over the Kansas City Wizards before 12,789 at RFK Stadium.
Rongen sent Carey Talley in for Jason Moore midway through the second half and moved Ben Olsen into Moore's spot at central midfield. Rongen was looking for stability. What he got was a quick goal and assist from Talley, and maybe even a new central midfielder in Olsen.
On his first touch of the game, Talley took a pass from Olsen inside the box and drilled it past goalie Chris Snitko for the game's first goal.
"I wasn't even expecting to shoot; I was expecting to pass," Talley said. "It was a breakdown by their team. It felt great. They don't come often with me."
They come more often for Talley against Kansas City (3-11). He has scored both of his goals this season against the Wizards; the other tied the May 15 game that United won in a shootout. United (11-5) is 5-5 all-time against the Wizards.
Roy Lassiter added two goals -- one brilliant, one controversial, both merely insurance. His first came out of a jam to the right of the goal, and the second came when he may or may not have been offside, depending on which team was asked. In any event, mainstays such as Lassiter are hardly the concern. Halfway through the 32-game season, Rongen is trying to solidify his lineup. Moore was playing central midfield for the first time in his young career. Rongen hoped the talented University of Virginia product could fill Marco Etcheverry's playmaking role. But Moore had about as much impact on this game as Etcheverry, who is with the Bolivian national team. Moore struggled to create opportunities, United struggled to get him the ball, and finally Rongen pulled Moore for Talley.
In doing so, Rongen may have found a stable replacement for Etcheverry in Olsen. "Moore will be a good player, but based on what we saw in the second half, Ben is the guy that is going to play there," Rongen said.
Perhaps Rongen will make another coaching move that looks so good so quick, but it isn't likely. Talley entered the game in the 59th minute, and when he scored in the 64th minute, Rongen wore a half-smile, half-laugh on the sideline.
Talley wasn't done, either. He assisted on United's second goal, although it was mostly the work of A.J. Wood and Lassiter. Wood took Talley's pass deep in the corner and sent it to Lassiter, who managed to punch it away from two Wizards defenders and past Snitko.
For Moore, the top pick in the Major League Soccer draft, there will be more opportunities to play central midfield, his college position. Etcheverry will not return until Bolivia completes Copa America and the Confederations Cup.
Last night, neither team generated many chances early in the game, and United looked listless. Not surprisingly, it was Lassiter who sparked United, although he didn't do so with his play. In the 34th minute, Lassiter was pulled down near the Wizards' goal by Uche Okafor, and he immediately initiated a shouting match with the Kansas City defender. That seemed to embolden United, which controlled play the rest of the half.
In fact, United controlled it for the rest of the game, and Lassiter was eventually able to lift the team with his feet, not his mouth.
D.C. United 0 3 -- 3
Kansas City 0 0 -- 0
SCORING-D.C.: Talley, 64th (Olsen, Williams); Lassiter (74th Wood, Talley); Lassiter (85th, Wood).
LINEUPS -- D.C.: Presthus, Sonora, Llamosa, Agoos, Olsen, Williams, Aunger, Kamler, Moore (Talley, 59th), Wood (Slivinski), Lassiter; K.C.: Snitko, Vermillion (Dancy), Lalas, Okafor, Prideaux, Johnson, Klein, Henderson, Preki, Johnston, Brown (Gomez).
CAPTION: United's Roy Lassiter, left, tries to get leg up on Wizards defender Uche Okafor. Lassiter scored two second-half goals, in 74th and 85th minutes.