United riding a two game unbeaten streak at home hopes to keep the good times rolling when the defending MLS champion Colorado Rapids, with their own three game unbeaten streak, comes to RFK this Saturday night.
A young and inconsistent DC side has a golden opportunity to expand on a banner four point week by going for their first three game unbeaten streak in almost a year by taking advantage of a severely weakened Colorado team that has only managed one win in RFK since 1999.
To be honest, DC United has been a bit lucky to beat Seattle and tie Dallas for four crucial points this past week that has seen them claw back into relevancy in the Eastern conference. DC worked very hard to earn the win over the Sounders, but Seattle had chances to tie for sure, and while Dallas certainly didn’t do enough to win, DC did barely much more. So, this match could go a long way to deciding whether this DC United team is actually credible or just pretty lucky.
Colorado will be without their most dangerous attackers considering Omar Cummings sprained an ankle versus Houston last week and Caleb Folan, who punished DC with two incisive goals a few weeks ago, is out with a groin strain. Captain Cranium, Conor Casey is barely back to health too, so perhaps DC will avoid that battering ram too.
Still, a weakened Colorado managed to beat Houston and escape NE with a 0-0 draw, both places DC floundered notably, as indeed the Rapids brutally dispatched DC mere weeks ago 4-1 in Denver in an epic 15 minute collapse at the end of that match.
Colorado will still field a pretty decent side however as Quincy Amarikwa and draft pick Andre Akpan, both with game winning goals this year, are likely to start at forward. Very likely Scotsman Jaime Smith (goal and an assist in the last two weeks) and Kosuke Kimura or Wells Thompson will man the flanks for Colorado coach Gary Smith.
There’s no doubt who will police the center of the field for the Rapids though as Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz are all but cemented in stone. And in defense, it’s pretty likely Scott Palguta, Tyrone Marshall, Drew Moor, and Marvel Wynne will be Smith’s lineup across the back with Matt Pickens in goal.
Considering DC will almost certainly field a very similar, if not exact, lineup from the Dallas game, then DC has some decent advantages. Olsen can’t hardly be faulted for playing Charlie Davies and Josh Wolff at forward, Chris Pontius, Dax McCarty, Clyde Simms (or Stephen King) and Andy Najar across midfield from left to right. And also in keeping his retooled defense, that staunched 8 goals in two previous league matches to 1 goal in two matches this past week, totally intact. So, if Perry Kitchen, Dejan Jakovic, Ethan White, and Daniel Woolard don’t start the next match, then Olsen needs his head examined or it’s pretty clear that Payne and Kasper need a stake through their hearts.
So, looking at the matchups, DC has the advantages if they choose to accept their roles as favorites, not always the case lately.
Anyway, going forward, DC has some huge hopes with league leading scorer Davies and his recently discovered muse Josh Wolff being way more than the ancient Marshall, Moor, Palguta, or even Wynne can contend with. For sure Pontius and the recently rejuvenated Najar in support or simply crashing the backside can overwhelm any combination of Colorado defenders whatsoever even assuming McCarty and King or Simms runs into a brick wall (literally).
Defensively, DC has dodged a bullet as the speedy Cummings and the cruelly effective Folan are out. Perhaps Casey causes trouble in his first game back, but even similar cannonballs Amarikwa and Akpan are not all that scary as a hobbled and cautious Casey. Especially as Smith and Kimura will not easily defeat Kitchen and Woolard or even Jed Zayner and Marc Burch should either f those two find their way onto the field.
Even better, the trends clearly favor DC. Colorado has only won once here in RFK since 1999 when Jorge Dely Valdez phoned home. True the most recent loss was last year, but seriously, who didn’t win here last year? Aside from that loss, and btw DC won in Colorado last year for the first time since 2000 so perhaps we are trading flukes, Colorado has just been pummeled here in RFK since the league’s inception. Losing the ’97 MLS Cup to DC and going 2-10-3 in RFK since the league was founded.
DC has recently decided to show some backbone at home going 2-0-2 so far this year outside of that hideous NY loss, and Colorado have hardly been world beaters outside of Denver going 1-2-1 on the road with the only win being a 1-0 victory over hapless ChivasUSA.
Both teams have recently found their form of late, but while Colorado has found it at the cost of some pretty crucial players, DC has found it in spite of the loss of some perceived crucial players and even more importantly with the re-emergence and perhaps new found confidence of some very young guns. Ethan White has been a huge boost at an opportune time, Perry Kitchen has responded well to a humbling experience in Houston, Jakovic seems to have new life, Najar has absolutely re-found his scrappy success, McCarty has maybe figured out him being toned down a bit is better than him trying too hard and doing nothing.
But, overall, Wolff and Davies being a true scoring partnership is immense for a team that set a league record in futility last year. Davies has already scored more in 9 games than any leading scorer last year had in 30 games, so that is huge and something Colorado has to be leery of. DC is 3-1-1 in games Davies scores, and -0-3 when he doesn’t. However, that isn’t the whole story. Josh Wolff has arguably been more important to DC.
That partnership will decide the match. If they score, DC wins. If they don’t, DC needs to figure out how to start another unbeaten streak. Call me crazy, but it might need more than two guys (and Najar) carrying the team on their backs.