Both resurfaced with a flourish Saturday night.
Davies scored three goals — the first two coming in an early three-minute stretch — and United played with renewed hunger in a 3-0 victory over Chivas USA in front of an announced 12,245 at Home Depot Center.
The result propelled United (8-7-10, 34 points) into the thick of the MLS Eastern Conference race with six weeks left in the regular season — six points behind front-running Columbus and Kansas City, within two of Philadelphia and one of Houston. United has played at least two fewer matches than all of those clubs.
The victory was marred by Chris Pontius’s possible fractured leg, suffered in a second-half collision. Pontius, who assisted on all three goals, was to undergo X-rays later in the evening. His parents, who live in nearby Orange County, comforted him in the locker room before he was taken by ambulance to a hospital.
“He’s in a lot of pain,” Coach Ben Olsen said. “I’m hoping for the best.”
Pontius, enjoying the finest of his three seasons with seven goals and five assists, was sensational in the open field and partnered with Dwayne De Rosario to create Davies’s goals in the 11th, 14th and 66th minutes. Davies became the second United player in five weeks to record a hat trick (De Rosario did it against Toronto).
“I was able to clear my mind, get fit,” Davies said of United’s down time since the Aug. 20 match at Kansas City. “I worked really hard and I finally felt 100 percent mentally and 100 percent physically. I haven’t felt like that in a long time. I wanted to come out with a bang. It felt like my first game.”
It was Davies’s first multi-goal game since the season opener against Columbus. He now has 11 goals on the season.
“A lot of his goals — let’s face it — people were putting it on his foot,” Olsen said. “He did very well and that’s what he does; he’s in the right spot. But the way he played was more encouraging than the goals for me. He has rededicated himself to the group. He looked like he went after the game rather than waiting.”
Before kicking off, United received welcome news from around the league. Four of the five clubs ahead of D.C. failed to secure the full three points. The most glaring results were Columbus losing at home to last-place Toronto; host Philadelphia tying expansion Portland; and the New York Red Bulls (33) settling for a draw with the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps, cellar-dwellers in the Western Conference.
Goalkeeper Bill Hamid, back from his second U.S. national team camp, returned to the lineup. Rookie center back Ethan White made his first start since July 20, replacing Dejan Jakovic (hamstring).
Olsen tweaked the midfield and front line: Pontius moved from the left wing to forward, partnering with Davies. De Rosario, who had started up front in most of his recent appearances, dropped into the playmaking role, and Santino Quaranta filled Pontius’s slot on the flank.
From the start, United exploited the left side of Chivas’s defense. In a four-minute span, D.C.’s infiltration led to a pair of goals.
In the 11th minute, De Rosario collected a deflection off referee Ricardo Salazar, surged on the counterattack and supplied Pontius purring down the right flank. Pontius might’ve been attempting to shoot when he curled the ball to the back side. Regardless of the intent, the effort connected with Davies for a sliding finish — his first goal since June 25 against Houston.
In the 14th, Chivas defender Ben Zemanski’s poor clearance of Andy Najar’s cross allowed Pontius to settle the ball at the top of the box. With defenders drawn toward him, Pontius pushed the ball wide to Davies for a 10-yard one-timer.
“We were confident with our front four or five guys that we were better than their backs,” Quaranta said. “We felt like we could get at them. It makes it a lot easier when you jump on a team and finish your chances.”
Davies should’ve had two more in the half but failed to finish clear opportunities set up by Quaranta and Pontius.
After controlling possession for the first 45 minutes, United relinquished it during the uneasy early stages of the second half. Although Hamid wasn’t tested, D.C. was fortunate to maintain the two-goal margin. Having absorbed the pressure, United secured victory — and Davies’s hat trick — on a swift counterattack, sparked by De Rosario and Pontius.
Two minutes later, Pontius and David Junior Lopes slid into one another at midfield, resulting in a red card for Lopes and an apparent serious injury for Pontius.
Olsen said he didn’t see any malice on the part of Lopes. However, he added: “It wasn’t the first time Lopes was in the mix on some hard challenges. It was on the other side from the benches, so I’ll take a look at it” on video replay.
Chivas (7-11-10) hasn’t scored in three straight matches and fell further behind in the wild-card race. United, meantime, is in good position to gain a playoff berth for the first time since 2007.
“The push starts now,” Davies said. “We knew this was a very important game and we knew we had to win it.”
United notes: Midfielder Stephen King, whose contract was to expire this year, agreed to a new deal this week. Terms were not disclosed. . . . Honduras wants Najar for Central American Olympic qualifying in two weeks, but because the matches don’t fall in an official FIFA window, United is unlikely to allow him to miss the Sept. 24 game against Real Salt Lake. . . . United will practice in the Los Angeles area for several days before traveling to Seattle for next Saturday’s match against the Sounders (13-6-9). . . . The MLS roster deadline for trades and signings is Thursday.