Kick Off: Olsen expects United "to man up" vs. Chicago
D.C. United manager Ben Olsen will be shorthanded when the Chicago Fire pay RFK Stadium a visit tonight in an Eastern Conference match-up with massive postseason implications (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS LIVE).
But Olsen is making no excuses even though influential players Branko Boskovic and Emiliano Dudar will be missing following red cards suffered against the Philadelphia Union on Sunday.
“Doesn’t matter who is out — red cards, injuries,” Olsen told the Washington Post. “It’s that time of season we have to man up.”
D.C. United, clinging to the fifth and final playoff spot in the East, made sure to quell the concerns that nerves may be fraying as the playoff race heats up. In addition to the two ejections against the Union, D.C. teammates were seen calling each other out in front of the NBC Sports Network cameras.
“You can look at it two ways,” Olsen continued. “I prefer to look at it as we’re an emotional team right now and you need to play with emotion in these games.”
If they’re going to beat the Chicago Fire, D.C. United know exactly how they have to do it. They’ve spotted the Fire’s Achilles' heel: “Attacking-wise, they’re very good,” Chris Pontius told the Washington Times. “But on the other side, I think at times, just watching video, they can get a little complacent. And hopefully we can kind of exploit some of those spaces.”
The Fire, who are on a three-game winning streak and could potentially find themselves in the Supporters’ Shield race, want nothing less than a positive result from the match: "They're right there with us for a playoff spot, so it's very important that we walk away with points in games like this," manager Frank Klopas said.
Only one team has realistic playoff ambitions when the Columbus Crew (seventh place, 30 points) meet Toronto FC (10th place, 20 points) in a Trillium Cup match-up that was rescheduled so that the Crew could attend Kirk Urso’s funeral (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE). The game could see Crew DP Federico Higuain make his first start for the club.
Toronto FC are equally excited about a new arrival on the defensive side of the ball. Manager Paul Mariner expects center back Darren O’Dea to have an increasingly greater impact on the squad: "I think you'll see him get better and better,” Mariner said. “He'll probably have his legs back under him now. He was fantastic [on Saturday]. He's everything I want in a central defender, and more."
TFC were the only Canadian team not to receive sanctions from the MLS Disciplinary Committee yesterday. Vancouver’s Gershon Koffie and Montreal’s Hassoun Camara were among three players receiving one-game suspensions.
Real Salt Lake had to make do without their three first-choice center backs, but still registered a 2-0 home victory in a must-win CONCACAF Champions League game against Panamanian champions Tauro FC last night.
Although Paulo Jr. was the star of the show after setting up both goals, captain Kyle Beckerman managed to score a goal and receive a red card (watch the highlights here).
In the most sensational result from CCL last night, Chivas Guadalajara managed to lose 1-0 to Guatemalan side Xelaju (watch the highlights here). In case you were wondering, it was the Chivos over Chivas.
The Houston Dynamo open play in the CONCACAF Champions League tonight in El Salvador against CD FAS (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer and Univision Deportes). Tyler Deric will be starting in goal for the Dynamo in this match.
Back in MLS, the tackle which landed Koffie in hot water with the Disciplinary Committee earned him a yellow card, but it also injured Seattle’s Andy Rose, who reportedly suffered a broken rib.
And although he has six players among the 20 with most yellow cards in MLS, Vancouver manager Martin Rennie doesn’t think there’s a discipline issue with his team: "I don't think we're getting a reputation at all," Rennie told the Vancouver Sun. "A lot of the yellow cards have been very, very soft yellow cards. … Almost all of the yellow cards, if you look back at them, have been fairly innocuous."
In a week in which the referees are in the spotlight, Rennie had a pointed comment in reference to his colleagues using the media to influence officials before and after matches: “In most leagues you're not allowed to manipulate the referee before the game starts or manipulate the referee after the game finishes,” Rennie told The Province. “I've not been in MLS that long but it seems like in this league that maybe you can.”
What’s for sure is that in this league you can get far with a quality goalkeeper. Just ask the Seattle Sounders. According to the Seattle Times, the Sounders are 8-2-1 with Michael Gspurning in the starting lineup and 3-4-6 without him.
That’s a better record than Vancouver DP Kenny Miller has been able to muster with his new club. After two 2-0 losses, the Scot gave his straightforward analysis: “A horrendous week,” he said. “It couldn't have went much worse, to be honest."
Another new signing could be on his way in Colorado after Honduran Hendry Thomas made his practice debut on Tuesday. An American midfielder who formerly played with Everton is now training with the team.
US fans can watch Sacha Kljestan in action later today in the UEFA Champions League when Anderlecht travel to face AEL Limassol of Cyprus in a first-leg playoff (2:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer Plus). Also today, Portuguese side SC Braga host Italy’s Udinese (2:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer).
In English Premier League action, Chelsea host Reading in the first midweek matchup of the league season (2:30 pm ET, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes).
Speaking of the EPL, one of Mexico’s Olympic champions looks to be headed to Manchester United. Find out who he is here. (SPANISH)
American forward Jozy Altidore is feeling quite at home at Dutch club AZ Alkmaar, with four goals in the opening two Eredivisie games. The Sporting News spoke to Altidore yesterday, while the skeptics chew on some crow: “To tell a guy who’s 19 or 20 that he’s washed up, it’s laughable,” Altidore told Brian Straus. “I’ve been dealing with a lot of people telling me what I can and can’t do for the longest time. It’s no problem for me now because it comes with the territory.”
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