The Black-and-Red are back in action tonight as they’re on the road to face the Colorado Rapids, the visitors are in the midst of a three game slide. The Rapids are also coming off a loss, the loss against Vancouver ended a two game streak. Colorado is trying to secure a playoff spot while United is trying to go into the postseason on a good note.
During their extended break, D.C. used the time to relax and regroup. As a team, they’re also getting healthier as Fabian Espindola is expected to return for the first time in over a month. United’s last two games weren’t pretty as they failed to score a goal in both games, the second a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of their rivals, the New York Red Bulls. Which allowed New York to gain ground on them, then pass them during United’s time off. New York now has a one point lead over the Black-and-Red.
“It has been a tough little stretch, I think the break came at a really good time. A lot of guys were starting to get a little fustrated with the way the results were going. I think it was definitely good for all of us to step back and kind of re-evaluate where we are and how we’re going to finish the season. Coming back from the break, mentality is good. Practice this week has been really sharp, we’re ready to go.”- Nick DeLeon, D.C. United Midfielder
Colorado should present United with a good test coming off the break, they do some of the things that the Black-and-Red have struggled with at times this season. They’re a pressing team, which United’s shown they’re not always the best against teams like that. Typically surrendering a goal before settling down and sustaining possession. From a couple of players and coach Olsen, it seems that D.C’s happy with the work they’ve put in over the break and the team is a bit ornery or “moody” as Olsen shared yesterday.
“A little moody, thats okay, that’s normal. Losing a game going into a break is never fun, but I think it’s a good moodiness and I think it’s a group that’s not happy with the results as of late. Its a group that’s done everything this week to train and compete and do all the things you need to do to get back on track. It’s all about showing up on Saturday and doing the business. – Ben Olsen, D.C. United Head Coach
There’s just six more games left in the regular season and that’s counting tonight’s game in Colorado, it’s imperative that D.C heads into the postseason on a good note, playing some of their best soccer. Olsen said as much, ” it’s important for us to get better right now, and try to build some momentum for the postseason and it starts with this weekend.” As much time as United spent at the top of the tables this season, there’s only been brief glimpses of what they look like as a whole. So many lineups have been used this season, they’re approaching 30 different starting lineups. While they’re to be commended for being in the position their in, it’s time to see what this team looks like when they’re whole.
“Any sort of consistency we can get in the next month, month and a half is going to help us a lot going forward. I think we’ve done a great job shifting lineups, guys stepping in and out-performing their expectations and that’s how we’re in the position we are right now. At the same time it’d be nice to have some consistency.” -Chris Rolfe, D.C. United Midfielder
Not exactly known as a high scoring team, Untied got a glimpse of what life could be like on the attacking end when both Fabian Espindola and Alverado Saborio were playing up top. The pair caused trouble for two consecutive games before Fabi went down with another injury, Sabo hasn’t been the same up front without his partner in crime. Teams are able to give him the attention he deserves and then some. Their were back-to-back games in August when the team scored nine goals, the attention they demand opened up so much space for Chris Rolfe, Nick DeLeon and others. “Oh yeah, it’ll be nice to have those two back up top said DeLeon when asked about the return of Espindola. “They’re a presence, they’re going to draw defenders towards them which frees up space for other players. Having both those guys on the field is good, I’m happy to have them both back. That’s for sure.” If Fabi can come back and remain healthy for the rest of the season, D.C. may not only be able to go into the postseason hot, but possibly go on a deep run. But it all starts tonight in Colorado. No one knows what to expect from an attacking standpoint other than having those two back up top means the Rapids will have to account for them both.
” We’re looking for a better performance, its simple, results will come if we play the way we’re capable of playing” said Olsen. It appears that the team is already past the crushing loss in New York and is focused on the Rapids and the home stretch. After a good week of practice and a chance to step away and re-focus, United is ready to go. Olsen had this to say in regards to expectations for tonight’s game and the rest of the season. As for what to expect against the Rapids or what challenges they present the Black-and-Red, DeLeon offered his thoughts. “They like to press, they’re a good pressing team and they have some talented offensive players. If we can hone down on those players, limit their touches and we break their press. Just by staying composed, get that one or two passes past their press and we’ll be okay. I’d say their press and a couple of their offensive players are where we can see problems. If we’re composed and move the ball how we know we can than we should be alright.” In terms of those talented offensive players that they want to limit touches to, he was speaking of Gabriel Torres and Kevin Doyle. As mentioned earlier, the Rapids should be a great test for a D.C. team that is trying to get back to the winning side of things.