Christian Benteke scored twice as DC United delivered a timely boost for manager Wayne Rooney and their playoff hopes with a 4-0 win over the Chicago Fire in Major League Soccer on Saturday.
The Belgian former Liverpool striker hadn’t found the net for three months but opened the scoring in the ninth minute with a confident finish after collecting a lofted ball from Polish midfielder Mateusz Klich.
Benteke turned creator for United’s second goal in the 20th minute, bringing the ball down superbly before feeding Theodore Ku-DiPietro who drilled home.
An own goal from Chicago defender Carlos Teran, after another clever touch from Benteke, made it 3-0 four minutes before the break.
Benteke tapped in his second and his team’s fourth in stoppage time.
Former Manchester United and England striker Rooney had said this week that he was “disappointed and frustrated” that DC United has not contacted him in two months about a contract extension to his expiring deal.
The club have invested in strengthening their squad since Rooney took over mid-way through last season but went into Saturday’s game outside the playoff positions after a three-match losing run.
However Saturday’s win moved the team into ninth place, occupying the final post-season spot, as they leapfrogged Chicago with seven games remaining in their regular season campaign.
“It was a result we needed,” Rooney told the Washington Post. “We know it’s on us to keep putting on performances like we did tonight and win games. Where we are, tonight’s game will give us a lot of confidence,” he added.
Benteke had been without a goal since June 3, failing to score in 11 straight games in all competitions.
“When you don’t score for a few games, it can be frustrating,” he said. “But I was just thinking about doing the right thing. If you do the right thing, it leads to goals,” he said.
– Leaders lose –
There were defeats for both the conference leaders with Eastern Conference pace-setters Cincinnati, already assured of a place in the playoffs, falling to a 1-0 loss at home to Orlando City.
Uruguayan forward Facundo Torres scored the only goal of the game, a minute before the interval, as the Florida side, third in the East, strengthened their playoff position.
Western Conference table toppers St.Louis City suffered a 2-1 loss in their Midwest derby at Sporting Kansas City with Mexican striker Alan Pulido grabbing a brace.
Samuel Adeniran blasted St. Louis ahead in the 22nd minute before Pulido pulled Kansas City level nine minutes later with a close-range finish.
A smart side-foot finish by Pulido on the stroke of half-time secured a win for Peter Vermes’ team who are in 11th spot but just two points outside the playoff frame.
Wilfried Nancy, Columbus Crew’s French head coach, enjoyed a victorious return to his former club Montreal with his Ohio side running out 4-2 winners thanks to a hat trick from Colombian striker Cucho Hernandez.
The win moves Columbus up to fourth in the East, above the Philadelphia Union who host the New York Red Bulls on Sunday.
There was late drama in Nashville where Charlotte looked to have taken all three points thanks to a sweet stoppage time strike from Scott Arfield.
But in the eighth minute of stoppage time, Nathan Byrne was harshly ruled to have barged over Lukas MacNaughton and Hany Mukhtar levelled from the spot.
The points were shared in a 2-2 draw in the Pacific North West derby between the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers, one of the oldest rivalries in American soccer.
Raul Ruidiaz headed the Sounders, second in the West, ahead in the ninth minute and Leo Chu doubled the advantage on the half-hour with a breakaway solo effort.
But Portland, who need a late season run to make the post-season, fought back with substitute Dairon Asprilla heading in at the back post with his first touch of the ball in the 67th minute.
Three minutes later the Timbers drew level with a wonderful, curling shot from 20 yards out from Brazilian Evander.
Lionel Messi and Inter Miami continue their attempt to climb from the foot of the table into the playoffs when they travel to defending champions Los Angeles FC.