WASHINGTON — Even in the face of recent improvement, one thing has continued to elude D.C. United this year.
“We still haven’t won back-to-back games,” Canadian defender Dejan Jakovic noted. “We need to start doing that if we want to move up in the standings, but other than that we’re gelling at the right time.”
Currently in last place in the Eastern Conference, the Fire have already tied 14 games this season, while only winning two on the year. However, manager Ben Olsen knows his side can’t overlook their longtime East foes.
“Chicago had a very good game last week, unlucky to not get out of [New York] with a win,” he said. “It’s a better group — they have a couple additions and have a lot of pace up top now that has made them a more dangerous team. Their record is the way it is not because they’re losing games but because they’re tying a lot of games — that’s a dangerous thing.”
A handful of former Fire players will feature for DC in the nationally televised match — reserve midfielder Stephen King and defender Daniel Woolard both had stints with Chicago earlier in their careers. It’s also a return for forward Josh Wolff, whose stellar MLS career began with Chicago in their inaugural year in 1998.
“It’s nice to go back there for me where it began,” he said. “Great team, great coaches, great city, great fans.”
DC rookie right back Perry Kitchen also has ties to the area. He grew up in Indianapolis, but made a three-hour commute each way in order to play for top youth side Chicago Magic.
But it’s not just the players with local ties for whom the match will carry special meaning. With only three players listed on DC’s injury report — Branko Boskovic, Joe Willis and Jed Zayner are all injured and unavailable — the increased competition guarantees more is at stake for every player who takes the field at Toyota Park.
“I’m not afraid to make changes even after we do well to make sure we’re putting what we think the best 11 to get a result in Chicago,” Olsen said.
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark