Now, in the early days of the league, DC United could pretty much count on at least one hard truth, their semi-yearly beating in Kansas City. Incredibly, it took until 1998 for DC to register their first win in Arrowhead. DC had won games in both expansion cities Chicago and Miami before they won at the Tomb for goodness sake. And the losses were heinous too; DC was outscored 14-4 those first three years, before a couple shootout wins and shockers eventually pushed the record to merely bad at 4-8 by 2004.
However, that has been turned around lately despite DC’s ugly loss there last year. Prior to last year, DC hadn’t lost in KC since 2004, a quite respectable 3-0-3 until the debacle in last year’s season opener. Surely, one of the best away records for DC in any other league venue. So, KC has certainly lost its air of invincibility.
One thing it hasn’t lost though is KC’s shockingly unpredictable weather and they are calling for storms in KC Wednesday night. “Storms” in KC means anything up to and including the odd tornado that might randomly appear, so set your DVRs to run an extra hour or two, because the chance for a weather delay has better odds than Sean Wheelock saying “It’s on for KC!” every time they cross midfield. KC has already had some shocking weather this spring, so expect the worst.
The Wizards will be well rested too, having just come off a bye week, which gave Arnaud and Wolff to get over some nagging injuries, neither of which is good news. Nor is the fact that KC has tightened up their defense considerably since the opening weeks of the season. After giving up 5 goals in the first two games, they’ve only surrendered 3 goals in the last 5 matches (2 of those in Chicago) giving them 3 shutouts over that 5 game span, despite just coming off a 1-0 loss in Toronto last time out.
DC, on the other is riding an 3 game unbeaten streak and have a share of the Eastern Conference lead for the first time since winning the Shield in 2007 (thanks to Tyrone Marshall!), but they will be missing Olsen, Fred, and Marc Burch, none of whom made the trip to KC. It is a bit troubling Olsen is still not taking any plane flights, but better safe than sorry, I suppose, and it’s understandable Fred doesn’t want to get too far from home given his recent family emergency (and given the travel concerns going to and from KC, you never know exactly how long you will be gone or when you will return!).
The loss of Burch will be interesting though. This could be the first match for the recently signed Avery John, or Soehn could insert Janicki and maybe shuffle the backline a bit. I think its even money either way. This is a good time to see if John is going to be a solid option, but Janicki really deserves to see if he can get his starting spot, that he had in the season opener in LA, back. Given the 3 man back line having pretty specific marking assignments, shuffling the players around a bit shouldn’t be a problem, nor would simply slotting him on the left, for that matter. Although Jakovic’s passing ability would be more useful on the outside, but whatever.
I think Jacobson will get the nod in place of Olsen as he brings a bit of height and ball winning, as well as a wicked outside shot, to the table that would be very handy against KC. Which leaves the rookies, Pontius and Wallace on the outsides, and Gomez and Simms rounding out the midfield. I also think Moreno gets the start alongside Emilio too as his leadership will be that much more important on the road without Olsen.
So, given the lineups expected with five against four, DC should be able to win the midfield for the most part, so their biggest worry should be speedy counterattacks by Arnaud and Lopez or long balls to Wolff. Which admittedly are serious concerns. But, KC’s offense has really gone south as much as their defense has gotten better. Still, DC’s defense has been prone to the odd mistake that has been punished unmercifully, which is why they only have one shutout so far this year.
Going the other way is a concern too. Emilio might be coming off the boil a bit and the predicted cold and rainy doesn’t inspire much hope his Brazilian bones will enjoy this road trip. Then, Moreno rarely seems to string together two exceptional games in a row these days. Gomez has been relatively quiet this year aside from that brilliant assist coming off the bench against Dallas which is a very promising sign. Pontius and Wallace are still doing the job offensively (defensively maybe not so much, but that’s merely a quibble for now), but will not break down KC’s rock solid defense on their own to be sure. Plus, DC doesn’t seem to have shaken that cautious road mentality, unless maybe the wild win in NY has shown them the light.
So soccer and weather gods willing, this has all the makings of a hard fought 0-0 or maybe 1-1 tie, which I will gladly take given the more likely alternative, a one goal loss. DC has scored first on the road in every match this year, but I’ll gladly forsake that honor if it means a earning a shutout on the road.
As for the rest of the league, it was the most painful week of the year so far. Only DC and LA held up their end of the bargain. Toronto was lucky to escape with a tie, much less beat the Crew. Tyrone Marshall spoiled my Chicago pick, but I forgive him as his goal let DC stay at the top of the East. RSL and SJ both laid down like dead dogs on the road, while Houston shockingly came up with goals in NE. All of which left me at 2-5 on the week and 25-28 on the season. (Hey, this stuff is tough to handicap, I’m telling you!)
This week’s blind guesses for the midweek matches, the rest in Friday’s preview for Toronto. For sure bet the opposite considering the way I’m running.
DC and KC 0-0
LA and RSL share four goals 2-2. Donovan and Buddle are too fast for Borchers and whoever they trot out for the suspended Olave (Horst?), but Mathis and Morales save the point for the home side.
SJ gets hammered in NY 2-0. Angel and Kandji are too good for SJ’s woeful defense, and despite NY having a poor defense of their own, SJ is the epitome of impotent, especially on the road.