[UPDATED] – Dwayne De Rosario has indeed been suspended for two matches and fined for his altercation with Danny Cruz
The last time D.C. United officially had taken the field outside of RFK Stadium was the first leg of the Eastern Conference finals against the Houston Dynamo in Houston this past November.
That 3-1 loss was chock full of agonizing moments that all worked against United, not the least of which was the 45th minute non-call by referee Ricardo Salazar on an Andre Hannualt tackle from behind that should have been a straight red and left United with a 1-0 lead at the break at the very least (United still would have had a direct free kick straight at goal from 22 yards – though arguing they would have scored would have been optimistic at best seeing as United didn’t score a single goal off of a direct free kick all season long). I highly doubt United would have given up three second half goals with a man advantage and would have most likely been in the drivers seat heading back to RFK Stadium just six days later. As it happens, the call didn’t materialize and United’s defense collapsed in the second half and Houston took a huge advantage into RFK that turned into a second consecutive MLS Cup final appearance.
Thus is the tragic history of D.C. United in the city of Houston. Doesn’t matter if the match is played in Houston’s shiny brand new BBVA Compass Stadium or the old Robertson Stadium on the campus of the University of Houston. United simply has been a non-factor and an almost automatic three points for the Dynamo. Here’s the gruesome tale of the tape:
9 matches played in MLS competition (including last seasons playoffs) – 0 wins, 8 losses and 1 draw. 5 goals scored and 20 goals allowed.
Top that off with the breaking news that team captain Dwayne De Rosario is most likely to be suspended for the match because of a head-butting incident last weekend against ex-teammate Danny Cruz in the final match of the preseason, and the news just doesn’t get any better. I highly doubt another team in MLS can boast a record of such mediocrity and futility through their history at an opponents home field. United definitely has its work cut out for them but they do have some things to hang their hats on heading into this match.
One, the Dynamo haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory so far this preseason. Yes, I know preseason results matter about as much as a cool glass of milk to Mike Martin on a bar-hopping tour, but it is a hopeful indication of the team just not gelling at the moment. Secondly, the weather is going to be very comfortable on Saturday evening. A high of 60 degrees is expected during the daytime and this should quell any notion of having to play in Houston’s famous 10-inch thick humidity.
And lastly, it just seems about damn time that United get their act together and not mail in a road performance in Houston. Perhaps they can use the potential DeRo suspension to their benefit. Maybe even use the non-call in the playoffs as further motivation.
Let’s assume DeRo won’t be available. This will leave head coach Ben Olsen with some moves to make in his absence. The easiest and most likely of which would be to move Chris Pontius from his left midfield to the forward line in support of Lionard Pajoy. Now Olsen will have a few options on the left side of midfield. He can use rookie Kyle Porter, a natural lefty who impressed tremendously in preseason, or he could flip Nick DeLeon over to that spot. Olsen could also go the cautious route and start Lewis Neal on the left and leave DeLeon on the right. Another intriguing option would be Panamanian midfielder Marcos Sanchez. Sanchez’ visa issues have been cleared up and he would be available to play.
Everywhere else in the lineup it seems rather predictable. Bill Hamid in goal with a defensive lineup from right to left of Chris Korb, Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic and Daniel Woolard seems to be an easy call. In midfield the question depends on what Olsen will do with the DeRo suspension but my gut tells me that Sanchez will play on the right, DeLeon on the left with Perry Kitchen and Marcelo Saragosa roaming central midfield.
As for the Dynamo, injury concerns with newly acquired Omar Cummings might see him come off the bench with Cam Weaver and United-killer Will Bruin up top.
Midfield should see Brad Davis on the left with Oscar Boniek Garcia on the right and Giles Barnes and Adam Moffet patrolling the center of the park. In defense the Dynamo will most likely go from right to left with Kofi Sarkodie, Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor and Corey Ashe with Tally Hall in the nets.
History and my brain tells me that United doesn’t have a chance in this match. For whatever reason at whatever time of the year, United just doesn’t seem to focus when playing in Houston and honestly, they just have never matched up with the very disciplined Dom Kinnear-coached Dynamo. The Law of Averages and my heart says that United will have to win at some point, but with this last-minute distraction of the impending De Rosario suspension, this will give United the requisite excuse to mail in another bland performance on Saturday night
On the bright side of things, this is the only matchup in Houston this year and it will be out of the way after Week 1. Unless of course they meet deep in the playoffs. Even knowing United’s paltry history in Houston, if you were to give me that scenario in the playoffs, I’d take it and run to the hills..