Well, no point to this match whatsoever as DC has virtually nothing to play for beyond pride and a vain hope to keep their jobs next year or maybe avoid the worst record in the league too. But it’s on the schedule and as luck would have it, it’s against Columbus who Crewely eliminated DC from the Open Cup this past Wednesday, and could all but mathematically eliminate DC from the MLS playoffs with another victory over last place DC this weekend.
It will be two tired teams who take the field tomorrow night in RFK as both have played a multitude of games recently and the Crew still have Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League to worry about while DC is reduced to the lowest common goal in every league everywhere, that of not finishing last overall. Good luck with that.
With 8 games left and DC a good 5 points behind expansion Philly for the worst record in MLS, with Philly holding game in hand to boot, bottom of the barrel is looming exorably ahead. But perhaps by miracle absolute last could be avoided. DC has only finished dead last in the league once ever in 2002, but that was with 32 points and only ten teams. However a win over the Crew at home when they are tired and distracted by other competitions is crucial if DC has any real hope of scraping past an improving Philly side in the race to finish above the bottom of the table.
Not only that, but some simple payback to the team that bitterly ended DC’s hopes for a trophy this year has to be tantamount. Now, I’m not saying the Crew are a dirty team nor that they did not deserve their win in the Open Cup, but I am flat out saying that ref helped them quite a bit more than simply putting his thumb on the scale as they said in the old days. Seriously, O’Rourke gets away with a knee to the ribs and a retaliation go at a player prone on the field with a yellow, but Hernandez is sent off for lashing out after being fouled and then kneed to the ribs by O’Rourke for even having the temerity to challenge a Crew player for the ball? Whatever. Same guy tossed Mr. Sunshine, Curt Onalfo two games for arguing a call in the Dallas play in game. Such is life and good teams like the Crew do seem to get away with harsh fouls more often than not. DC used to when they were good too.
But, life gets decidedly more interesting in the payback match one would hope. Not saying DC will win or even put up a real good effort at the Crew nets considering the situation, but honestly if pride is actually on the line, DC had better show up because they, and their long suffering fans were robbed and someone better offer up some retribution or no one beyond season ticket holders will be visiting RFK anytime soon.
However, that said, DC might have a severe handicap in their dreams of retribution in re their complete lack of talent available both through injury and international callups and indeed through their inherent lack of talent in the roster this front office has created and foisted upon the RFK faithful.
First of all, DC will not have Boskovic or Jakovic due to National team commitments, in addition they will also be without a plethora of defenders considering Zayner has an ankle sprain (interesting that in that it’s his only game against his former club), Burch broke his foot in the Open Cup loss (perhaps re-injured when he stuck out a foot for that own goal that tied the Open Cup game in the eighty effing ninth minute), and Rice is questionable after getting 8 stitches in his eyebrow from the Chivas clash.
While DC’s offense and defense will be without their arguably best players, they will have Hernandez however since his red card was in the Open Cup which does not transfer to MLS. In fact, DC should be in pretty good shape overall considering all their players are equally bad doesn’t really matter who starts, while the Crew will take some serious hits due to attrition from all the games they are playing lately as well as their critical injury concerns. I can’t imagine Schelotto plays at all which means Lenhart and Garey are playing forward, and since Rogers (knee surgery), Ekpo (groin strain), and little miss Moffat (yellow cards) are all out, as well as the fact that Gaven has played a ton of minutes lately, I think it’s a completely jury-rigged offense for the Crew.
Defensively, almost certainly Marshall does not play as he is nursing a nagging injury as is Padula, and Hejduk is no spring chicken either. Iro and Brunner should be fine playing centrally though and O’Rourke and maybe Francis should play the corners. Then in midfield, I’d be shocked if Carroll, Burns, Renteria and Duka didn’t start behind Lenny and Squiggy at forward.
So, looking at the matchups, DC has some tough sledding unless they play above themselves in anger, or possibly because of pride (but that’s a stretch or DC would already have more wins than 4). Right from the get go, Jewfro and Garey present enormous problems for United’s cobbled together central defense of James and either a hobbled Rice or Turtle Talley (or maybe even Pena brittle for one last hurrah). In midfield, a tired Simms and King will struggle against Burns and Carroll, as will Graye against Renteria and McTavish against the enterprising Duka.
Going the other way isn’t much better. Allsopp and Hernandez against Brunner and Iro is a nice steel cage death match, but since DC’s duo really didn’t do that much in the Open Cup against the Crew’s very solid defense outside a sketchy PK, it’s hard to see how they will be more successful this time around when nothing is at stake beyond jobs on the line that they might not actually even want anymore. Najar against Griffiths is interesting as is Quaranta (or maybe Pontius) against O’Rourke or even Methuselah Hejduk, but seriously DC has very little shot at any real success considering the gut wrenching loss they just took no matter how much they want revenge. Heart, determination and few ejections? Yes, especially since O’Rourke and Hernandez get to go right back at it since Open Cup ejections do not carry over into MLS. But actual goals scored by DC seem decidedly unlikely.
Interestingly, the intangibles do actually favor DC slightly. Now, the good old days of owning the Crew in RFK are clearly over, and empirically the Crew are clearly better as well, as opposed to the old days. But that said, DC absolutely stole a win late last year over the Supporter’s Shield winning Crew, and despite losing the last two against the Crew here before that, DC is still a very respectable 15-5-3 in league play against the Crew in RFK overall.
Of course, the current season’s trends do not favor DC at all really. Not only is DC still mired in a hideous stretch even with that rousing win over Philly a few weeks ago. Adding in the loss to Chivas last time out, DC has 1 win in their last 10 games overall, nor is their home record anything to boost the ego either, being a dismal 3-7-1 overall being shut out an incredible 6 times in RFK. I will point out DC’s previous worst ever home loss total for a season was 7 (in 2000) and not only has this team tied that, they nearly have nearly been shut out that many times to add insult to injury.
The Crew however are not really the road juggernauts they seem to be despite that heinously narrow and somewhat controversial loss in Mexico. They have only 1 win in their last 6 league matches with the only league win since May being at Philly. Hardly the world beaters they think they are. Still, they are better than DC, so tough to point fingers at the yellow submarine there.
The Crew do have a wild card to throw out there though in that they just signed Peruvian international Andres Mendoza 32, a much traveled reasonably consistent scorer throughout the second tier of South America, Europe and Mexico. He got his transfer certificate and will be joining the Crew in DC this weekend, but much beyond sub duty seems unlikely.
Bottom line, DC should be up for a good fight and I would be surprised if they go paws up (that’s next week in Toronto), but I’d also be shocked if they score more than the Crew either. If Braun could score back to back on DC, book it that Semipro will be just as much trouble to a backline missing Jakovic. Tough to see DC overcoming even that one, so a tie is the best they can hope for and that’s if Najar or Allsopp bails DC out yet again.
So, there you have it. On the bright side, only 7 more games to go after this one.