United’s easily dispatches Chivas USA in 3-1 win

Eddie Johnson had a goal and an assist to help lead D.C. United to a very comfortable 3-1 win tonight over Chivas USA at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

The win for United (10-5-4, 34 points) is a season-high third straight and helps them keep pace with red-hot Sporting Kansas City who sit just one point ahead of the Black-and-Red at the top of the Eastern Conference. Chivas USA had won four straight matches coming into the game, a match up of two teams that had turned their disappointing 2013 seasons around much faster than anyone had anticipated.

Johnson converted a penalty kick, his second straight game doing so, in the 25th minute after United midfielder Chris Rolfe was barged over in the penalty area by Chivas midfielder Oswaldo Minda.

United nearly doubled and tripled their lead late in the first half when Johnson’s header caromed off the crossbar followed shortly by another header off the crossbar, this time though by a Chivas USA defender.

After the break United continued their domination and once again the Rolfe-Johnson combo provided the game-winner in the 59th minute. Rolfe’s free kick found Johnson deep in the penalty area and the mercurial striker knocked a header down perfectly into the path of Perry Kitchen who’s left-footed blast easily beat goalkeeper Dan Kennedy to his left for his third tally of the season.

If that wasn’t enough, United surely put the game out of reach just over ten minutes later when Chris Korb’s through ball found Luis Silva who easily slipped the ball past Kennedy to give the home side an impressive 3-0 lead. Silva, filling in admirably for injured striker Fabian Espindola, scored his fifth goal in five games.

The only thing left to do was to try to get United goalkeeper Bill Hamid a shutout in his 100th MLS appearance. However that was spoiled in the 84th minute when Chivas USA were awarded a very soft penalty when midfielder Mauro Rosales flopped under very little pressure from United rookie defender Steve Birnbaum.

Erick “Cubo” Torres stepped up and beat Hamid to his right to spoil the shutout bid. Torres’ goal was his 14th of the season and his sixth straight game scoring a goal. Torres was essentially neutralized all night long until his penalty kick opportunity.

United now will have a ten-day break from league play and return to action on Wednesday, July 30th when they welcome Michael Bradley and Toronto FC to town. Before that however, United will fly down to Jacksonville, Florida to take on English side Fulham FC on Saturday night in an exhibition match.

Knowing this, United most likely will take a reserve team down to Florida as they being a hellish month of play with 9 matches in 32 days starting with their tilt with TFC next week.

Episode 130 – Dos a Cero

Join the guys as they review DC United’s past two matches against both LA Teams, including the 1-0 loss at Chivas USA and the 2-2 draw vs. LA at RFK Stadium. The boys also take a look at the US Men’s National team and yet another 2-0 win against Arch Rival Mexico in Columbus…

United vs Chivas USA: United lifeless in 1-0 loss to Chivas USA

In a season that will soon go down in MLS’ record books for futility, D.C. United provided more ammunition to lay claim to the worst team the league has ever seen after it’s 1-0 loss last night to Chivas USA at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

Erick Torres’ goal in the 50th minute was the ultimate difference and just another in a long line of mistakes and bad bounces that has come to the once proud franchise. Following a fantastic save from Bill Hamid on an Eric Avila blast from outside the penalty area, the ensuing corner kick was eventually but not effectively cleared by United. A looping cross into the area headed straight to Nick DeLeon however his shanked headed clearance fell right into the path of the only Chivas USA player with any ability to score goals recently and Torres’ bundled his shot into the ground and past Hamid for the 1-0 lead.

United’s record now is a painful 3-19-5 (14 points) on the season including a pathetic 0-10-3 on the road with only 4 goals scored away from RFK Stadium. Additionally, United is 0-17-1 when allowing the first goal of the game.

United seemed the more eager of the two cellar dwellers in the first forty-five minutes and forced Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy into a pair of fine saves on Conor Doyle. The first save came when Chris Korb busted down the right flank and in combination with DeLeon created a cross along the ground right to the penalty spot where Doyle just got a toe on the cross ahead of the challenge of Bobby Burling. Kennedy came out to narrow the angle and smothered the shot and forced a corner.

United’s best chance on the night was when Doyle was sent through only to see his worm-burner effort kneed out by Kennedy late in the first half.

United, playing without the Canadian trio of Dwayne De Rosario, Dejan Jakovic and Kyle Porter, didn’t seem to have the requisite hunger or eagerness to push the attach to the equally woeful Chivas USA after falling behind. Instead, they chose mostly to maintain possession amongst the back line and Bill Hamid in a display of a team bereft of ideas offensively and struggling with any confidence. It’s no wonder Ben Olsen’s team is heading for the history books.

If things weren’t any worse, the Black-and-Red welcome the Los Angeles Galaxy into town next weekend on Saturday night at RFK Stadium. The Galaxy are coming off a 1-0 home loss to the Colorado Rapids but they were missing their top four players in Landon Donovan, Omar Gonzalez, Robbie Keane and Jaime Penedo due to World Cup qualifying commitments.

United vs Chivas USA: Boskovic game-winner pushes United further up the Eastern Conference table

It’s been a very difficult week for Branko Boskovic. After being pulled in the 57th minute a week ago against the New England Revolution, the midfielder made known his feelings in the press about his lack of playing time and the perceived lack of faith that D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen has in his player. Just four days after that 2-1 win over the Revolution, Boskovic was pulled again in the 57th minute of a then scoreless draw with Philadelphia.

Fast forward to this evening and Boskovic came in as a sub in the 57th minute but this time he let his play do the talking instead of his mouth in leading United to a vastly important 1-0 win over Chivas USA. The win for United (15-10-5, 50 pts) pulled them into a tie with New York Red Bull for third place in the Eastern Conference and extended their lead over Houston (46 pts) and Columbus (45 pts) who both lost this weekend. With only four matches to play, United is in a very solid position to advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

Both teams came out with a defensive approach to the match but it was United who bossed the first 45 minutes. United had a few guilt-edged chances beginning with Nick DeLeon’s rasping drive from 25 yards in the 13th minute and then a nice save from Kennedy on Maicon Santos in the 20th minute. United threatened once more from DeLeon in the 38th minute but his 30-yard drive was saved comfortably by Kennedy. On the other end of the pitch United had little trouble dealing with MLS’ lowest scoring team (21 goals in 29 matches) with only a weak shot from Nick Labrocca being the only threat in the initial forty-five minutes.

After the break United continued to control the tempo. Although the game-ending stats would show Chivas USA with a 58-42% advantage in possession, their possession was aimless and mostly negative.

All that changed just seven minutes after Boskovic made his appearance into the match. Lionard Pajoy did well to juke and jive Chivas USA defender Jorge Villafana deep along the right sideline. Pajoy broke free just long enough to send a low driven cross into the penalty area where Boskovic dove and neatly headed the ball into the opposite side netting to send RFK Stadium into rapture. The goal was the first for Boskovic in league play through his four seasons with the Black-and-Red and arguably couldn’t have come at a better time.

United managed to see out the remaining thirty five minutes of the match without any real threat from the visitors and extend their club record unbeaten streak to 15 games. United has also clinched their first winning record since the 2007 season.

United has four matches remaining, three of them on the road. “That’s been our Achilles Heel,” head coach Ben Olsen commented after the match in regards to his teams road performances this season, “But we got that monkey off our back in Philadelphia and look forward to this two-game stretch (at Portland and at Toronto FC).”

United will play in Portland next Saturday night before heading up to Canada to play Toronto FC the following weekend. United will be off the week of the October 13th for the World Cup qualifying break and then will host Columbus at RFK Stadium in United’s last home match of the season on October 20th. By that time, all will be revealed and United will know exactly what they need to either qualify or move up the table in the chase for higher playoff seeding.

Ben Olsen

DC Loses in 2-2 Draw with Chivas

Ben Olsen was furious as DC United’s playoff hopes took a body blow when they let a two goal lead slip away at home allowing Chivas to tie the game in the second half, and DC even missed a stoppage time penalty kick that could have salvaged a victory, but instead United dropped another crucial two points at home.

Looking a bit confused and taken out of their game early on, United were fortunate to run out to a 2-0 lead from goals scored on either side of halftime. In the 39th minute, United scored their first headed goal of the season against the run of play as Dwayne De Rosario got on the end of Andy Najar’s free kick for his 10th goal of the year.

Then DC extended their lead with their first corner kick goal in over two years as Ethan White poked in his first professional goal when the ball fell right to him after De Rosario’s initial shot off a Quaranta corner kick was palmed away by Kennedy in the 47th minute.

However, after letting Chivas back into the match by allowing two Juan Pablo Angel goals, United got a golden chance to snatch a win as De Rosario drew a penalty kick in stoppage time. But unlike last year when DC pulled off a 3-2 win over Chivas in RFK with a stoppage time PK, this time Chivas goalkeeper, Dan Kennedy guessed right and smothered De Rosario’s spot kick to deal a severe blow to United’s playoff hopes.

DC United had defeated Chivas easily 10 days ago by a score of 3-0, but right from the start of the match tonight, United seemed confused and slow to react to a Chivas side that made some changes and went after the game with much more desperation.

Chivas coach Robin Fraser took a chance electing to go with an amorphous 4-5-1 lineup, by inserting Argentine playmaker Marcos Mondaini as well as dropping forward Alejandro Moreno into the midfield, to clog the center of the field and suffocate a speedy United team that had countered beautifully to cruise to an easy win in LA last week. And the changes paid off as Chivas dominated the midfield throughout the early parts of the match and United’s forwards barely saw the ball or if they did lost it too easily being under constant pressure.

United didn’t even get a shot on goal until the 31st minute when De Rosario was sent into the box by Santino Quaranta and rounded Heath Pearce easily only to have his tight angle shot stuffed by Kennedy staying big at the near post.

However, United weathered Chivas early pressure well as Hamid made a lovely diving save on a wicked curling shot by Mondaini and a more routine save on forward Alejandro Moreno’s long shot to keep United in the match, until Najar earned the free kick that put United ahead just before the half, and White extended the lead just two minutes after the start of the second half.

DC had a golden chance to potentially put the game away in the 53rd minute as perhaps DC’s best combination in the run of play saw Woolard bound down the left side, slide the ball wide to Quaranta, who crossed along the ground to Davies near the penalty spot and he laid off a perfect ball for Najar to turn onto with a decent look at goal, but his shot went right to Kennedy, and United barely threatened Chivas’ goal for the rest of the match until the stoppage time PK.

Unfortunately just after that United chance, Chivas brought in Justin Braun and later Laurent Curtois to change the dynamic of the match back in favor of Chivas right at the same time United took their foot off the gas making it that much easier for Chivas to regain control of the midfield and the match.

Angel got Chivas on the board with a classic finish over Perry Kitchen as Nick Labrocca was given way too much room on the right side, when DC defender Brandon McDonald slipped on the rain soaked pitch, to easily pick out the Colombian striker on the far post and he simply over powered the smaller Kitchen in the air to nod the ball past Bill Hamid and halve United’s lead.

That strike opened the floodgates for Chivas as United was completely overwhelmed with pressure for the next 10 minutes. Finally, Chivas broke through with the tying goal in the 69th minute as again Angel simply overpowers United’s defense. Justin Braun had kept alive a loose ball away from Najar and out wide to Ante Jazic, who floated a cross into Angel, well covered by McDonald, but as he blocked the Colombian’s volley, Angel was able to collect the ball again and use McDonald’s momentum against him spin back and make room to poke the ball past Hamid just before White could jump in to block.

Chivas had a chance to take all the points themselves in the 86th minute as Braun sprung Curtois behind the United defense and in alone on goal, but Hamid came up with a huge save to paw the shot away keeping United level and setting up the last minute fireworks.

In the 89th minute, United launched a long ball to De Rosario and he was simply leveled just outside the Chivas penalty area by defender Michael Umana, however referee Chris Penso didn’t call the obvious foul, but perhaps rued that decision and sought to rectify that omission a few minutes later as he called a penalty kick on Angel for a pretty light push in the back of De Rosario as Quaranta swung in a cross.

Last year, Carey Talley stepped up to a PK in the 92nd minute and beat Chivas, but this time De Rosario thought he had sent Kennedy the wrong way, but unfortunately he had guessed right and smothered another vital two points United will rue if they slip away from the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

After the match, United coach Ben Olsen voiced his displeasure at a United team that has struggled to compile points at home. The tie drops their home record to 3-3-7, where United held leads late in the match in all but two of those 7 draws.

DC hosts Real Salt Lake on Saturday before heading out on a 3 game road swing starting in Philadelphia, then Columbus, and Vancouver before hosting the final three matches of the regular season. Anything can happen in MLS, but DC’s playoff hopes took a bad blow tonight and the odds of them making it just got a lot longer.

CHarlie Davies vs Seattle Sounders

DC Hosts Chivas as Playoff Hopes Hang in Balance

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.

Davies hat trick propels United to 3-0 road win over Chivas USA

Charlie Davies broke out of his own personal goal scoring drought in a big with way with all three goals tonight in D.C. United’s 3-0 win over Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. With the win United leapfrogged three MLS teams and into playoff positioning in the 10th position with multiple games in hand on everyone in MLS. However, the win may have come at a steep price as it appeared that midfielder/forward Chris Pontius may by lost for the remainder of the season with a serious lower-leg injury suffered just minutes after assisting on Davie’s third goal in the 66th minute.

Davies got the scoring started in the 9th minute when United was the benefactor of a fortunate bounce off of referee Ricardo Salazar. Juan Pablo Angel, Chivas USA’s recently acquired forward, was trying to safely pass back to his defense when the ball struck Salazar and fell right into the path of Dwayne De Rosario. The Canadian sped into the opposition half of the field and sent a perfect ball down the wing to Pontius. Pontius then centered the ball to the back post where a sliding Davies punched it into the empty net for a 1-0 lead. This was Davies first goal since United’s 2-2 draw at home against Houston back in July. The significance of the goal was not lost as Davies, wearing #9, scored his ninth goal of the season in the 11th minute. All this on the eve of 9-11.

United doubled the lead just four minutes later again benefiting from a defensive mistake. Andy Najar was sent down the right wing by De Rosario and his harmless cross into the box was not cleared well by defender Ben Zemanski and it fell right on the boots of Pontius. Pontius calmly slid the ball to his left to a wide open Davies who converted to make it 2-0 for the Black-and-Red. United made it to halftime but surely should have increased the lead when Davies somehow managed to miss an easy opportunity to make it 3-0 when he sent a shot narrowly wide of the post late in the half after being set up expertly by De Rosario.

Davies did however get his hat trick in the 66th minute with United’s third counter attack goal of the evening. Pontius broke through the Chivas midfield and then was in alone on goal but unselfishly squared the ball to Davies to complete the 3-0 scoreline. Pontius’ night and perhaps his fantastic season may have ended just a few minutes later when he was involved in a nasty collision with Chivas USA defender Davie Lopes. Lopes and Pontius collided and the third-year player from UC Santa Barbara came out the worst for wear with a bad lower leg injury. Suspicion of a broken leg or ankle could end Pontius’ best season to date in MLS.

United will now turn their attention to another West Coast opponent when they face the Seattle Sounders next weekend in Seattle on Saturday, September 17th.


United Notes

– Head coach Ben Olsen started Pontius as a forward alongside Davies and inserted Santino Quaranta into the left side of midfield. De Rosario dropped back into the attacking midfield spot

– United was forced to make two injury substitutions as Clyde Simms came off at the half in favor of Stephen King and Marc Burch came on for Pontius

– Bill Hamid seemed to re-aggravate his hamstring injury from the Chicago match two weeks ago early in the match. However, he stayed on the field and had Brandon McDonald take goal kicks. Hamid clearly was favoring his injury as it limited his movement but it didn’t stop him from gaining his sixth shutout of the season

Different week, different squad, same result; United lose 1-0 to Chivas USA

Justin Braun’s 13th minute header from the top of the box squirted over Troy Perkins hands for the only goal of the game as Chivas USA defeated D.C. United 1-0 at the Home Depot Center last night in Carson, California. In what is surely becoming a broken record, United once again spurned superior ball possession and a stunning 10-1 advantage in corner kicks into yet another agonizing shutout loss. Santino Quaranta’s hard luck shot in the 44th minute rocketed off the post and then off the calf of Chivas USA goalkeeper Zach Thornton and should have settled into an empty net to tie the match. But living up to true United bad luck this season, the ball caromed wide of the goal.

Jaime Moreno’s 69th minute header from a corner was cleared off the line as it too was headed into the empty net and United’s frustration continued to grow. United dominated the ball for just about 75 minutes of the match but as has happened all season long, they couldn’t convert their territorial advantage into goals. United was shutout for the 14th time this season and stand only one shutout away from MLS futility. The Toronto FC expansion team of 2007 suffered 15 shutouts and United still has 8 matches left this season, including two more trips to the West  to face the Galaxy and the Colorado Rapids.

Ben Olsen decided to use a mix of starters and reserve players in order to give some rest to key personnel who most likely will take the field this Wednesday against Columbus. Bill Hamid, Julius James, Clyde Simms, Chris Pontius and Andy Najar all started the match on the bench. James came in at halftime for the injured Barry Rice (head wound) and Najar and Pontius came on as well. Jaime Moreno played his first 90 minute match in nearly three months and unfortunately for the United legend, he seemed to have one of the worst matches he’s ever had in his entire career losing the ball nearly every time he touched it and looking slow (no real news there) and completely out of touch (not unlike Willie Mays stumbling in the outfield for the Mets at the end of his career).

With the loss, United has fallen 14 points behind the last playoff team, the San Jose Earthquakes. With three more losses, United will assure themselves of no playoff action for the third consecutive season. Something tells me that it won’t take that long to complete.

United will now turn their attention to the only thing left that really means anything this season as they face the Columbus Crew on Wednesday night at RFK Stadium in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semi-finals. If United advances, they will play the winner of Seattle Sounders (at Seattle if they win) or Chivas USA (at RFK if Chivas USA wins). Something tells me it just won’t matter.

United looking to lineup changes against Chivas USA

If this were any other season in which United was in contention for a playoff spot, this Sunday night’s match up at Chivas USA (10pm EST, ESPN2) would create a number of headaches for Ben Olsen and D.C. United. The recently appointed head coach however has said that while the match is important, the team has eyes on a bigger prize, getting past the Columbus Crew on Wednesday evening in the semi-finals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Seeing as United has little to no shot at the playoffs outside of a miraculous run of wins, Olsen has predictably stated that the team will do what it can to prepare for 3 matches in 6 days starting on Sunday evening in Carson, California.

“The Open Cup is a big deal for us right now,” he said after the win against Philadelphia last Sunday afternoon. “There will be an emphasis on those games because frankly that is the only trophy we can win this year.” Admitting that is tough to deal with no doubt but before that match comes their match against Chivas USA on Sunday night. United will be without three key starters as Marc Burch, Pablo Hernandez (rest) and Danny Allsopp (illness) have been left behind in Washington, D.C.

It seems to me that Olsen will most likely start a team mixed of regulars and reserves to play this match. What is getting forgotten in this 3 games in 6 day scenario is that their opponent is faced against the same prospect as they have their own semi-final in Seattle midweek. This may alter Chivas’ match day lineup as well. Considering the players left at home to rest and recover and the importance of Wednesday night’s match, don’t be surprised to see a lineup looking very much like the team that took the field in the first half of United’s 4-0 win over Georgetown University earlier this week. In that match United fielded the following lineup:

Goal – Troy Perkins

Defense – Jorday Graye, Dejan Jakovic, Barry Rice and Devon Mctavish

Midfield – Santino Quaranta, Branko Boskovic, Curt Morsink, Stephen King

Forwards – Jaime Moreno, Adam Cristman

I wouldn’t expect much to change with the possible exception of bringing Chris Pontius to one of the flank midfield positions and dropping Curt Morsink. With Boskovic being called into Euro 2012 qualifiers with Montenegro (he will miss both matches upcoming versus Columbus), I highly doubt he will be left out despite not putting up any numbers in his 6 league matches.

It’s a tough call for Olsen to make having to field such a team, but if they we be in a reasonable position to have a chance to qualify for the playoffs, this would have been a much harder and possibly more scrutinized decision. However, since the Open Cup seems to be the only chance of sunshine in a dismal season, it makes sense to give your key starters rest ahead of that match as the team will only have one day of training after the Chivas match ahead of the semi-final on Wednesday at RFK Stadium.

As for the game at hand, again, it would be nice to try and capitalize on United’s only recent win but I think a draw with this lineup is probably the best result I could reasonably bestow upon United. They have been downright awful on the road this season and have had a terrible time scoring goals, much less dreaming of getting wins.

With all that said, I am predicting a spirited effort from United but a losing effort in a close 2-1 loss. Here’s hoping to being wrong and United building more confidence heading into the Open Cup semi-final.