DC United hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2007, and Charlie Davies (pictured) was brought in to rectify that and certainly helped the cause with a hat trick against Chivas last week. But, if he and United harbor any hopes of actually breaking that playoff drought, a second win over Chivas in 10 days is an imperative. However, that might not be as easy as it sounds as Chivas has pounded nails in United’s coffin with late season wins over the Black and Red in recent years.
United won the first four meetings versus Chivas, but unfortunately hasn’t swept them since 2006. However, that’s pretty much what it will take to spark DC’s playoff hopes this year. Anything less than 3 points tomorrow night, considering RSL looming on Saturday, and United would need a miracle to regroup and make the post-season.
DC handled the Goats easily 10 days ago beating them 3-0, and given Chivas’ historic lack of success, you’d think DC should be able to scrape out all the points when their playoff lives hang in the balance. But then again, United and Chivas have been in pretty much these exact same relative positions before and DC failed miserably.
In 2008 and 2009, United had their playoff hopes dealt crushing blows by shutout losses to lowly Chivas, in RFK no less, in the third to last game of each respective season. In 2010, it was a less crucial, but just as painful loss in the ToolBox to last place Chivas that helped secure last place in the entire league for United in easily their worst season in history.
Even worse, since that glorious win over Chivas that unfortunately cost Pontius his season, United got pummeled in Seattle with Charlie Davies barely a shadow of the player that hung a hat-trick on Chivas to put him back among the league leaders for the Golden Boot. It didn’t help that Ngwenya was his strike partner in Seattle as Wolff wasn’t quite ready to start, but it is ominous that United’s DP striker’s effectiveness disappeared that quickly.
However, it seems likely Olsen will have Josh Wolff available to start against Chivas with the hope that he and Davies can find the form that has seen them combine for 16 goals and 6 assists so far this season. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid’s hamstring woes also appear to be over and he should be ready to start, although central defender Dejan Jakovic stills seems to be a week away from starting.
So in this critical match, it seems likely Olsen goes with all healthy guns blazing and trots out Wolff and Davies at forward, Dwayne De Rosario, Clyde Simms, and Andy Najar in midfield for certain, and I have to wonder if the prodigal son, Santino Quaranta, gets a shot at that left side midfield as Austin DaLuz was less than effective against Seattle (although to be fair everyone was less than effective against Seattle). Without Jakovic, the defense is certain to be Perry Kitchen, Ethan White, Brandon McDonald, and Daniel Woolard for the third game in a row, in front of Hamid.
Chivas on the other hand is just as desperate for a playoff push and has had trouble winning or even scoring of late, having been shutout three of their last four games all losses, although Juan Pablo Angel did score for both teams in a 3-2 loss to Chicago last weekend. But, Chivas coach Robin Fraser has some players to work back into the starting lineup as well.
Obviously, center back David Lopes will be available after serving his ill deserved suspension from that unfortunate tackle with Pontius. Also, Argentine playmaker Marcos Mondaini got the start in Chicago and might be the key to Chivas’ offense down the stretch. United did not face him earlier and also got a bit lucky that Alejandro Moreno, a well documented United killer, only came in off the bench when they were already down to ten men. Chivas is a more composed team offensively with all three of those guys playing together.
So, it seems likely Fraser goes with Angel and Venezuelan international, Moreno as the forward pairing. In midfield, the extremely under-rated Nick Labrocca, Mondaini, Kiwi Simon Elliot, and likely Justin Braun should start going right to left. Perhaps Jorge Flores for Braun, or maybe even Blair Gavin for Elliott if they are feeling the squeeze of this being their second of three games in 7 days, and considering hosting TFC on the weekend should be the more winnable game on paper for them, but I’m thinking Fraser wants a set lineup from here on out for their own playoff run.
In defense, I would assume Ante Jazic on the left and Michael Umana in one of the center spots, but after that, Fraser does not seem to have settled on a the other center back between Lopes and Zarek Valentin, and right back has been a revolving door of Michael LaHoud, Mariano Trujillo, and even Ben Zemanski. LaHoud has played the most lately, but then again Chivas is mired in a four game losing streak and he hasn’t exactly distinguished himself.
Which makes the matchups pretty decent for DC. Defensively, Angel is of course a danger, especially with Mondaini to set him up, and of course Curious George has been known to light up DC, especially in RFK where I believe he has something like 5 career goals. But, Ethan White has been pretty solid all year, and Brandon McDonald might very well be United’s defensive MVP. Both are athletic and aggressive enough to trouble Angel and Moreno, as long as Monkeyboy doesn’t get away with too many theatrics, and Simms contains Mondaini half decently, DC will be in good shape, as I doubt Braun or Flores troubles Kitchen too much, and blue collar Woolard is a good match for lunch pail Labrocca.
Offensively, if Wolff and Davies are back in form, United should be able to crack a Chivas defense that has given up 9 goals in their last four games. Clearly, Umana and Lopes or Valetin do not have the speed to stay with Davies, and certainly he and Wolff has the savvy to flummox them as well. So, while Najar might have trouble in his duel with the Canadian assassin, Jazic, Da Luz, or my hope Quaranta, should be able to beat the converted midfielder Lahoud fairly regulary. Then obviously DeRo is a tough out for any defensive midfielder in the league not named Alonso, so he gets the nod over Elliott for sure.
As for the trends, they do favor DC slightly even though Chivas has been tough on United late in recent years. Historically, United is 7-4-2 over Chivas all time, outscoring them 22-17. In RFK, United’s record is 4-2, outscoring Chivas 10-8, and they won their last meeting here 3-2 last year.
More importantly, as mentioned, Chivas is on a four game losing streak, but is also winless in their last six, and has only one win in their past 8 games. They are also 3-6-6 on the road with their only road wins being in NE two months ago, a shocker in NY in May, and a win over SJ in April. However, they do have a troubling string of draws against the East as well. On the road in the East, they have snagged draws in Toronto, Columbus, and KC to go with those wins making them 2-3-3 against the East on the road so far.
DC, on the other hand has been playing the much better football of late, aside from the Seattle debacle, but their home record is nothing to write home about, however. DC is a barely respectable 3-3-6 in RFK, and while they won their last home match 4-0 over Vancouver seemingly an eon ago, that was their first home win since May 4 when they beat Seattle, having gone 0-2-5 prior to the Vancouver shellacking. And that’s without even mentioning United’s now epic failure to win two games in a row for going on three years now.
Well, RFK simply has to become a fortress again and United had better figure out how to generate an actual win streak, or the playoffs are a lost cause. It starts right now with a win over Chivas. If they can’t pull that off, why would anyone think they can hold their own against RSL on Saturday? Or win in Philly next week, or in Columbus the week after that? But a win over Chivas and some luck against RSL and DC goes into Philly and Columbus with some confidence and a hope for enough points to catch NY or Houston.
Time for DC to put up some wins at home, or start making plans for next year. Simple as that.