After a tough road trip, the Black-and-Red are happy to be home. They have a three game home stand coming up in the next week starting with the Philadelphia Union tonight at RFK Stadium. United suffered two 1-0 defeats and a draw, still, they are at the top of the East tables with a two point lead over the New England Revolution.
The team got a ‘reality check’ as Coach Ben Olsen said yesterday when they were joined by 17-year-old Francis Wesley. He received the call up on Thursday at school, yesterday he got a chance to live the life of a pro as he went through all the paces as every player on the team.
Wesley has a blood cancer called Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma, Make-a-Wish Mid-Atlantic played a huge part in making this happened. He’s been playing soccer all of his life and enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of the home town team. ‘It was great, playing amongst these guys is like, I’m going pro.’
Olsen offered his thoughts on the newest addition to his side after practice, ‘He’s a good player. Not a lot of kids could come out here and go through a passing drill, go through our shape drill. Actually a lot of fun that he was able to be a part of training, instead of sitting around, just hanging around with the guys. So I think that made it even easier, better for the guys to interact with him. Probably made it a little more of a special day for him.’
The home team has gone through several stretches this year in regard to injuries. At this time Fabian Espindola is still out with that knee injury, he’s been out since the conclusion of the Columbus Crew game. Michael Farfan’s injury is far more severe than anyone’s injury to this point in the season, Olsen said his was a Grade 2 when pressed by the media. Nick DeLeon is ready to return, Birnbaum played in the last game so there is good news in that regard.
This schedule has been hectic as of late and won’t let up for a few more weeks. Connor Doyle has seen extended time in the past couple of games due to the shuffling of the roster, mostly to give rest to players. He talked about the challenges of the tough schedule, ‘It’s more physical, just to keep your body right. Keep em ready for the next game, have these three at home. It’ll be nice to be at home for three games.’
After tonight’s matchup against the Union, the Black-and-Red will host Chicago on Wednesday and Toronto on Saturday. Olsen mentioned games like Portland were important, specifically on shuffling the lineup. ‘To evaluate some of the guys in real games, real atmospheres, and what they’re about.’ Olsen has maintained that there is to be no excuse no matter who’s part of the starting 11. As for some of those players that got a chance to play extended minutes, he said ‘ A lot of them passed with flying colors.’
As for the game tonight, DC gets a chance to avenge the loss at the start of their road trip. They surrendered a goal in stoppage time to fall to the Union. Coming into that game, the Union were struggling, Since they’ve seemed to have gotten things together. Olsen was quick to point out that ‘records mean nothing in our league’ as he cited the first Philadelphia game this season.
Keys to Victory
- Sustaining Possession. It’s one of the recurring themes in every draw or loss the Black-and-Red have suffered this season, when they are able to sustain possession they are a very good team. It also means they must avoid the costly give-aways, one of those led to the only goal in the Portland game
- Get numbers forward. DC is a very, very, very good defensive team. Almost to their detriment, they always get numbers back but struggle to do so in the opposite direction. Must get numbers forward to put pressure on the opposing team, in this case the Union
- Make timely runs. DC doesn’t always do the best job of making runs in the attacking final third, when they’ve done so, they’ve been rewarded with goals. It must be done more often, by everyone
- Clearances.While a very good defensive team, they must be able to start the counter attack quickly. Good clearances ensure that, get the ball out and up field to put pressure on the opposing team