It’s game day, the Black-and-Red host the New England Revolution tonight at RFK stadium at 7:30 pm Eastern. After their regular season finale in which they were blasted by the Columbus Crew to the tune of 5-0, hardly anyone outside the United lockerroom is picking them to make a run in the postseason yet alone win tonight’s Knockout Round match.
“Our challenge is very simple. It’s to win a home game against a good team.” – Ben Olsen, D.C. United
We were given an opportunity to hear from Coach Olsen and a few players yesterday leading up to the match tonight. As expected, the home side is a bit on edge. That type of loss can do one of two things for a team; they can brush it under the rug as no big deal or they can look themselves in the mirror and focus on not having another performance of that caliber from here on out. Olsen spoke briefly about the team’s mindset, “Obviously a little hungover yesterday from a tough result. This stuff can fuel you in a way, can have good returns.” They will definitely need those good returns as they take on a tough team with several strong attackers.
“Nothing crazy, a little less goofing around and joking. You can tell guys are focused and angry, ready to play.” – Chris Rolfe, midfield
If the rest of the team is anything like Bobby Boswell and Chris Rolfe, than they are indeed a very focused and angry bunch. Both players walked into the room and it was clear that they were ready to play, as if the hours couldn’t pass fast enough. United has a veteran team, that’s a prideful bunch of guys in that lockerroom and it appears that they are ready to go out and “do the business” as Olsen mentioned. It’s a tall task ahead of them, but the vibe around the team indicates that they’re ready for it. With anger and an edge being used to describe what the team or locker room is like, Rolfe shared a great nugget about how to channel anger properly. “You keep it pent up, you channel your anger. but you just have to do it and use it in a certain way. Whether it’s covering ground, getting in on tackles. Getting in front of guys, just a little bit more physicality. It’s just how I use it. ”
The first 20 minutes of games is huge for United, it typically has decided how they’ll finish the game. They’ve struggled with starts for much of the season, so keep an eye on what Rolfe mentioned in terms of “covering ground” and “getting in on tackles” as D.C. will need to be the team that sets the tone if they wish to get a result. While the starting 11 has remained the same the past three games, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a lineup change tonight. Specifically one that reunites Fabian Espindola and Alvar Saborio up top. That may mean pushing Rolfe back out wide in midfield and pushing DeLeon in, or even a change to the backline. Olsen has mentioned several times this season and it’s been evident in their numerous line up changes that nothing is set in stone when it comes to their starting 11.
“Obviously sunday was tough, but new season starts. It’s win or go home, that’s it.” – Bobby Boswell, defender
“It was an eye opener, I think those kind of games can really get you ready even though the result wasn’t good. It showed us the mentality and approach that we have to have if we’re going to do anything” said Boswell. Anything referring to possibly making a run in the postseason. United knows exactly what they’ll face in the Revolution although they made it a point to say that not much can be taken from the two games they played in the regular season as both games were nearly four months ago. Still, not much has changed about the Revs according to D.C. Rolfe shared his view of them, “I can tell you that Charlie’s in form right now, he’s got a lot of confidence. Lee’s starting to play pretty well and Jermaine, Kellyn. Caldwell is kind of the guy that’s the unsung hero. But a lot of stuff goes thru him and he cuts out a lot of things defensively.” Davies leads the team in goals with ten this season, but it’s Nguyen that is the facilitator. He has a career high 10 assists this season, a key cog in that powerful midfield they boast. It’s imperative that United is able to win that battle in the middle of the field, the last thing they want is New England keeping the ball in the attacking third with all of those talented attackers firing on Bill Hamid.
Still, it’s not all about the Revolution. New England will have their hands full dealing with a side that surrendered the third fewest goals in the league. If they don’t take advantage of scoring opportunities, that defense is capable of locking down once they get settled. It will truly be a battle in midfield and United has players capable of creating havoc as well. Chris Pontius has been in good form as of late and his pace has helped cause trouble for defenses, if this is the game where Sabo and Fabi are reunited up front, that adds an interesting wrinkle for the Revs to deal with.
“It’s a whole new season and we’ve got a homefield advantage in the playoffs for a reason. Because we’ve had a good season and we’ve amassed a good amount of points and we’ve used every guy in that locker room to get it.” – Ben Olsen, D.C. United
Keep your eye on the wings in this game, the team that controls that area in addition to midfield should come out on top. “Rolfe answered a great question about the team being able to find it’s form after a tough loss. “A lot of our form just comes from confidence. Get confidence by scoring goals so, we need to get me and Fabi producing a little bit” That’s the key, a confident D.C. side is a dangerous one. That requires none of those lapses in concentration with sloppy passes at the back that turn into open season on the keeper. No matter how great of a keeper Hamid is, they can’t put him in those 1v1 or 2v1 situations he saw against Columbus. The backline has to stiffen a bit, but it starts with controlling the tempo in midfield.