Home is where the hunt is for playoff-hungry DC United

Bill Hamid

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WASHINGTON – D.C. United were a pedestrian team at RFK Stadium at best last season, winning just four of 17 games at home en route to missing the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.

That’s why, before the club’s first match of 2012, head coach Ben Olsen gathered his players and stated his mission.

“At the beginning of the season we all sat down and we wanted to make RFK a difficult place to play,” said goalkeeper Bill Hamid (above). “In the past couple of years, teams have come in and easily taken advantage of us, and that’s not good. Especially for fans coming to spend their money and coming to root us on.”

So far, it’s mission accomplished for D.C., who haven’t lost at RFK since the season’s first match. United have outscored opponents 23-9 in 10 league matches there and will play four more at home in August, beginning with a matchup against the Columbus Crew on Saturday (7:30 pm ET, MLS Live).

The goal all season has been clear: Take back RFK. That mantra is hanging on a banner in the tunnel that connects the locker room to the field, and it could lift DC to its first postseason berth since 2008.

“We’ve emphasized that part very early in the preseason and hammered it home,” Olsen said. “Credit our fans and the energy they’ve given us.”

Playing just one league match at RFK in June and July, D.C. dropped from first to fourth in the Eastern Conference standings behind Houston, Kansas City and New York. A solid showing at RFK this month, though, could change all that.

Couple the club’s desire to exact revenge against Columbus after a 1-0 loss at Crew Stadium on July 21 with a reenergized feel following a stagnant July and Saturday’s match presents itself as an ideal springboard for D.C.’s upcoming stretch of important games.

“It’s very good because we just saw them,” Hamid said. “They’re fresh in our mind. All they were really missing was [Emilio] Rentería. Now we can take advantage of the fact that they’re coming here and we know how they play.”

Midfielder Nick DeLeon, a rookie who ran with the first team at Thursday’s training, sounded more confident than Hamid.

“It’ll be good to get our revenge on them. That’s the way I’m looking at it,” DeLeon said. “We’re not going to lose to them two times in a row.”