United looking to grind out road points at Toronto

WASHINGTON – It’s too early in the season to toss around the phrase “must-win” ahead of D.C. United’s trip to Toronto (Saturday, 7 pm ET, Fox Soccer in US, GOLTV in Canada). But as the team acknowledged this week, getting results away from RFK is becoming more of a necessity.

“We need to figure out how to get points, especially on the road,” assistant coach Chad Ashton said. “It’s early, but we do look at it as a very important game.”

A unique challenge awaits up at BMO Field against a Toronto FC team very much in transition. Head coach Aron Winter, who is trying to implement a 4-3-3 system in his first year, has made a number of changes to the squad.

The fact that TFC have a number of new faces in addition to the new formation makes this a challenge for United – although the two sides did play against each other in the Carolina Challenge Cup in preseason.

“The biggest challenge is that they have a ton of new players,” midfielder Dax McCarty said. “They have a new coach, a new system and it’s fairly early in the season. For us, we don’t know a ton about them, we know they’ve gone through a ton of changes.”

Among those changes made was the trade of Dwayne De Rosario to New York. A player who has caused problems against DC in the past – he scored twice in the second meeting of the two teams last year – United defender Dejan Jakovic said it wouldn’t be any easier now that he’s no longer a Toronto FC player.

“He was a big part of their team last year, scored [a lot] of their goals,” he said. “But now that we don’t have him to deal with, I wouldn’t say it makes it easier because they still have some dangerous players.”

Once again, head coach Ben Olsen has some lineup decisions to make. Forward Charlie Davies continues to play well and is a candidate to get his first start at forward on Saturday. Rookie defender Perry Kitchen is still struggling with a stomach flu that forced him to sit out last game against the LA Galaxy.

Kitchen remains a starting candidate, despite not training Thursday, but if he can’t go, fellow rookie Ethan White is the other option.

“It’s 50-50,” Ashton said. “Either one of them could start, Perry’s still in the mix, but it definitely could be Ethan.”

No matter what combination the coaching staff decides, McCarty said it’s up to the players to raise their game and doing what it takes to get the result.

“When we’re on the road it’s about gritting it out," he said, "making sure that you’re strong, making sure that you’re physical, making sure that you match their intensity and coming out of there with three points.”