DC United’s revenge on RSL for their only loss so far this season appears to be coming at a very opportune time as the Western Conference finalists last year are simply staggering along completely out of whack, barely credible at home and woefully winless and anemic on the road. While United on the other hand is cruising along on an eight game unbeaten streak in all competitions after their convincing win midweek in the Open Cup over NY.
RSL; however, since beating United in mid April, managed to shellack NE 6-0 at home the next week, but hasn’t won a match since. Worse, the Western Conference hopefuls, never a very good team on the road in their history, are a woefully pitiful 0-4 on the road this season, having scored no goals away from Rio Tinto, while averaging 2-0 losses overall, and are coming off a very badly played home loss to KC last weekend.
They also have a goalkeeper problem as Rimando is barely back from a badly cut finger and isn’t likely to play, while backup Chris Seitz injured his shoulder in their last match and didn’t make the trip here. So, it’s likely third string Kyle Reynish, who was a teammate of Chris Pontius at UCSB a few years ago when the California school won the NCAA title oddly enough, will man the nets for the reeling Regals.
However, their real problems are on offense where they have been remarkably healthy and hideously ineffective. Robbie Findley has been spectacular in isolated games and completely invisible in others leading to his recent benching. The Mortician, Movsisyan just recently got his first goal, but has struggled mightily after a breakout year as he has found that teams now focus on shutting him down. Desperate, the team recently re-acquired Fabian “Flip” Espindola who famously hurt himself in celebration of a disallowed goal last season.
Still, the rest of RSL is rock solid professional and could be trouble if they manage to find a way to score. That’s how they beat United in April as DC staked out a lead, but then RSL clamped down and found the back of the net twice in the second half to win. Which is, unfortunately, exactly the problem for a DC United side that has a mere one shutout on the season, albeit a good one against Houston back in April. DC United this year just seems incapable of 90 complete minutes. They play well for a half, then hang on until the end, often successfully, but still not as reassuring as it could be.
And that could be trouble for DC as this is the end of a busy stretch of 6 games in 21 days, and despite the team’s obvious depth, some key players needing rest may pose a problem. Namoff and Simms for example have played the majority of minutes over the season and really should see some time off. Unfortunately, neither has a clear replacement on the roster with anywhere near their skill level. With Olsen out, Chris Pontius also is likely to be counted on to play in the middle of the field despite his playing a ton of minutes as well.
However, Soehn has been nothing but resourceful in managing minutes, so maybe McTavish or Jacobson slots in for one of those guys, or maybe even an experimental position shift of some sort just to see if there’s other options. Even if he can’t shuffle people this time around, given the pretty light schedule ahead, surely those guys can hang on for one more match before getting a rest.
However, the rest of the team is good to go. Emilio, Moreno, Gomez, Quaranta, Fred or Wallace, Jakovic, and Burch seem to be on the short list of Soehn’s other starters and have had plenty of rest lately. Still some questions at goalkeeper, but Soehn is apparently OK with that, so we’ll see how that drama plays out as the weeks progress. I have my own dim views of his strategies there, but I’ll continue to let it pass until I get some time for a commentary, or until something hits the fan anyway.
As for the matchups, DC clearly has the edge nearly all over the field. The center is sketchy with Moreno, Emilio and Gomez against Borchers, Olave and Beckerman. That’s a bit of a push, but aside from that every other matchup favors DC by far. Quaranta over the wildly inconsistent Johnson, Fred or Wallace over Mathis, Simms containing Morales, all should have the edge, and unless Findley or Movsisyan or Espindola miraculously find their form, DC’s defense shouldn’t be too troubled by whoever they trot out at forward. No doubt they give up one, as a team that couldn’t keep that dreadful NY side from getting 3 in the midweek is sure to give up at least one to a decent side.
But, that’s not much of a worry as this team is ominously reminiscent of those golden age teams in their ability to manufacture goals when they need them. They lead the league in scoring with multiple players who can threaten the goal at any given time. They even hung two goals on Chivas in their last match when the Goats had only given up three goals in their previous nine matches. Even the intangibles and the history is going United’s way as RSL has never won in RFK as DC has gone 3-0-1 outscoring RSL 12-4 here over their life span.
So, as much as I hate to say it as the Martin curse is in mid-season form, DC should collect all three points in this one. They have all the advantages, as long as they avoid overconfidence or the soccer gods keep their noses out of the proceedings, DC should come away with their 4th victory of the year and stay at the top of the heap in the East.
As for the rest of the league, it was another brutally ugly week. I should just bag this whole segment, but it’s become a sort of morbid fascination for me like picking at a scab or something, so I will keep it alive for at least a while longer.
Of course, my home team favorites all scuttled me last week. First, TFC totally tanked me at home dropping like a sack of dirt to the Fire, and I gave NE too much credit and they gifted Colorado a tie. Too much credit to Dallas too as all they could manage was a tie, while LA just couldn’t find it in their hearts to actually win one at home instead tying the Crew. Still, I called the 1-1 tie between NY and Houston and the DC-Chivas tie, so it wasn’t a total whitewash. 2-5 on the week drops me way under .500 at 32-37 overall.
This week doesn’t really look any more promising either as there are some tight contests all around the league.
NE at TFC would normally be a lock for TFC, but given the Reds going paws up to the Fire last week, I have lost faith in them. Still NE is worse and anemic overall, but maybe more disciplined and result oriented, so 1-1 draw.
SJ at Houston is a lot more promising as SJ is dropping down below Dallas in the worst in the league raffle. No question Houston is 2-0 winners at home in my lock of the week.
LA at Dallas is a head-scratcher though. Dallas stinks and LA is undefeated on the road, but that has to end sometime and Dallas is starting to play better. Going out on a limb and picking Dallas 2-1 (but it could easily be the other way around too).
Chivas at KC is another close one. Chivas has been doing it all year, but might be starting to crack, while KC is pulling off startling results here and there. Too close to call, so I’m going for 1-1.
Seattle at Colorado is also too close to call, but I will do it anyway, of course. Seattle is just starting to hit injuries and adversity and is definitely coming off the boil and Colorado is rock solid at home usually, so I’m thinking another 1-1 tie in keeping with the theme in MLS this season.
The Fire at NY is another grim decision. The Fire are clearly the better team, but NY matches up very well against them and I hate to totally pick against the home side. Still, Fire 2-1.
As for DC, let’s go with history. United 3-1.