Well, given the results tonight, DC is down to hoping for miracles. United has a must win game in a place where they have never won a game, never even scored a goal, but with NY and now KC fully three points in front of the Black and Red for that coveted wild card slot, DC simply has to find a way to keep pace.
And DC will have to do it without the lionâ€™s share of their offense. Emilio, Fred, and Gallardo are all out injured, while Jaime Moreno is suspended since his red card appeal was denied.
On the good side, the rest of United is pretty well rested for the first time in a while as nearly the entire first team was held out of the mid-week 2-2 draw at Saprissa in CONCACAF Champions League.
Plus, the relatively incredible results in Champions League lately may well inspire the team as nothing else has worked and something has to or United is doomed. The agonizing loss by a single goal to Cruz Azul and the incredible point made at Saprissa are really stunning results given the situations.
In particular, Francis Doe was a handful for Saprissa to handle, and if he can replicate that effort along side the speed and precision of Boyzzz Khumalo, and with the insightful determination of Santino Quaranta in the playmaking role, DC might well be able to cause some problems for Houstonâ€™s relatively slow back line. (It’s possible!)
Going the other way, DC simply has to find a way to eliminate the painful mistakes that have plagued their own back line, and maybe the way to do that is to bench some woeful underperformers. McTavish and Burch have been borderline horrendous the last month, while Martinez has struggled to be even competent.
Given the extremely positive results of their play in international competition some backups like Greg Janicki and Mike Zaher have had, it may well be time for Soehn to bench some starters to sharpen their focus. This would be the game to do it too as DC probably has no chance in Houston anyway.
But, if the rookies and backups can pull off the same skin of their teeth scrambling out of trouble miracles they pulled off against far superior teams in international play, that would bode well going into Houston against the two time defending MLS Cup champions, who look to be on their way to a third.
Plus, Houston has their own troubles to worry about as they have an extra mid-week game against San Jose coming up with the Western Conference up for grabs now that Chivas won tonight. So, they may well rest a few players in order to solidfy their playoff position. They may well even overlook DC entirely, and who could blame them, considering DC has looked pretty pathetic ever since winning the Open Cup over a month ago.
Houston has also shown a difficulty in scoring goals and will be without Ching and Kamara at least. Now, granted DC has shown a difficulty preventing goals, but hey, youâ€™ve got to look for something positive to hang your hat on. Houston has also shown a propensity for giving up goals when theyâ€™ve had to open up their play due to missing their normal attacking players. If they open up against DC’s speedy reserves, they could get exposed. (It could happen, seriously!)
Still, all that is spin and wishful thinking. Bottom line is that DCâ€™s defense has been horrible all year and their offense has been lame or absent recently, while Houston seems to be marching inexorably to another MLS Cup. It will take a miracle for United to win this match, no doubt about it.
But, it took a miracle to get a result in Costa Rica too and that happened. However, without another miracle in Houston, DCâ€™s playoff hopes are all but dead and buried.