DC Notebook: United to go all guns blazing vs. Toronto

Nick DeLeon DCvTOR

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WASHINGTON – As D.C. United prepare for Saturday’s match against Toronto – a game where a victory would go a long way toward locking up the club’s first playoff spot since 2007 – head coach Ben Olsen will stick with what’s been working.

And what’s been working is a 4-5-1, the shape the team has fashioned for a majority of the time since captain Dwayne De Rosario was announced out for the season.

“We’ve won three out of the last four in that formation, so I don’t know if we need to change anything that we’ve been doing,” Olsen said following Thursday’s training session.

Players were excited about the possibility of being the aggressor on the road as the team’s form away from RFK Stadium has improved of late. That said, United still must be careful about how they approach Toronto on Saturday (1 pm ET, MLS Live in US, TSN/RDS in Canada).

“It’s going to have to be a good balance,” midfielder Nick DeLeon said. “We have to come out aggressive but be smart about it. No offense, but we’re a good team and we have to take it to them. No questions about it.”

DeLeon (above) said he prefers playing as part of the 4-5-1 because he can save some of his energy for the attack and isn’t counted on to trail as frequently.

As United continue to gel following De Rosario’s injury, going 3-0-1 since their captain went down, Olsen has sensed a different optimism about reaching the playoffs than in 2011.

“We were always hoping to get in [last year],” he said. “This year, I feel like there’s still hope, but there’s a different mentality and I’m hoping that part drives us through these next couple games. We have to be a team that is mentally committed to going and getting the job done ourselves.”

Stadium news

D.C. Council member Jack Evans made some waves in an appearance on National Public Radio’s “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” on Friday and said the city and United are in “final negotiations” over the proposal to build a stadium at Buzzard Point.

But it later was reported by The Washington Post that those comments were perhaps premature.

“We appreciate councilman Evans’ unswerving support and are continuing what we hope will be fruitful discussions with the District,” United president Kevin Payne said Friday in a statement.

DeLeon wants Rookie of the Year

DeLeon is second in MLSsoccer.com’s most recent Rookie Rankings and, with five goals and four assists, has a legitimate shot at taking home Rookie of the Year honors. And he admits that’s on his mind as the regular season nears its end.

“It’s there,” he disclosed. “People have asked me about it. I try and block that out because it can be a distraction to me. That kind of stuff can get in my head. I just push it aside and go out there and play the best I can and do the best I can for the team. If that wins me Rookie of the Year, then so be it.”