WASHINGTON, May 23, 2013 — Is this the game where D.C. United turns its season around? The struggling, and proud D.C. outfit, certainly needs a positive result after a terrible season so far.
United (1-8-2, 5 points) plays the Portland Timbers (4-1-7, 20 pts.) at RFK Stadium on Saturday night hoping to earn its second win of the season and move off the bottom of the Eastern Conference. It won’t be easy. The Timbers, led by first year coach Caleb Porter, are riding a ten-game unbeaten streak. That streak is the longest in MLS this season.
Four-time champion United, needs to get back into winning ways soon or it could be facing its worst season on record, far worse than the 2010 forgettable campaign.
United went 6-20-4, 22 points in a 30-game season in 2010. Coach Curt Onalfo, who replaced outgoing coach Tommy Soehn at the beginning of that season, was fired on Aug. 4 after the club went 3-12-3, 12 points. Onalfo was replaced by Ben Olsen, who now finds himself in a precarious position like his predecessor.
Ironically, United’s worst start to a campaign comes on the heels of the departure of general manager Kevin Payne who guided United from its inception and it now trying to resuscitate Toronto FC.
Last season RFK was a fortress for United. After losing an early game United went on a 19-game unbeaten streak at home. This season, after winning its home-opener, United has gone 0-4-1 at RFK.
United offered it fans a glimmer of hope last week at earning a 1-1 tie with Sporting Kansas City at RFK. That game ended a franchise-worst streak of seven losses in a row.
It was not a pretty game. Olsen called it a “gutsy performance” and it stopped the bleeding.
Now United needs to save its season.
“You’ve got to dig in and find a way to get results,” Olsen said after the Sporting game. “That starts to steamroll into confidence, and that is how you get out of this stuff.”
The good news is that Chris Pontius is finally fit and will likely be able to put in some substantial minutes against Portland. And midfielder Nick DeLeon is coming off a full ninety-minutes game.
“Pontius now has some game time and Nick is probably ninety minutes fit now,” Olsen said. “It’s coming along.”
The Timbers arrive with former United defender Rodney Wallace in fine form. Wallace, one of many of United’s alumni playing well in the league, has notched three goals this season. Portland’s leading goalscorer is Will Johnson, who has five strikes on the season. Argentine midfielder Diego Valeri (3 goals, 4 assists) is the creative force behind the Timbers and the man United midfielder Perry Kitchen will have to keep an eye on.
Club Notes: United will travel to play the Richmond Kickers at Richmond City Stadium in Richmond, Va., for the third round of the 2013 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday, May 28 at 7 p.m. The Kickers are an affiliate of United and the MLS team loans players to the club. Loaned players at Richmond, Taylor Kemp, Conor Shanosky and Casey Townsend are set to appear for D.C. United in the Open Cup game and did not play in Richmond’s 4-1 win Icon FC in the second-round.
Gambian international Sainey Nyassi trained with the team this week.
John Haydon wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times for 20 years. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996.
Follow John on Twitter at @Johnahaydon or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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