WASHINGTON – Hoping to maintain pace in the crowded Eastern Conference standings, D.C. United have one more chance to secure three critical points before their second extended break of July.
Saturday’s match against the Columbus Crew at Crew Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live) will provide a second-straight difficult road test for United coach Ben Olsen’s club, losers of back-to-back games just once this season.
“[Training] has always been pretty good after a loss,” Olsen told reporters on Thursday. “But really, it’s not about the week as much as it is about Saturday and our approach. It’s how these guys handle a little adversity and respond.”
After a physically taxing training Wednesday, Olsen held Thursday’s training indoors, focusing on film breakdown and mental preparation. With five teams within five points of each other atop the East, Olsen wants his team as fresh as possible for Columbus.
In 28 trips to Columbus, D.C. are just 6-16-6, and winless there since Aug. 18, 2007.
“Columbus is never easy,” he said. “Playing away at Columbus, historically, we haven’t had a lot of success. It’s going to take a hell of an effort.”
On the heels of a humbling loss against Houston last Sunday, after which Olsen publicly challenged his team to respond to its lackluster performance, perhaps Saturday’s match comes at an ideal time for third-place United. The Crew have scored the fewest goals in the conference with 17 in 22 games, and they’ll also will be without Emilio Rentería (suspended) and Bernardo Añor (injured).
“We know what we have to do,” said United defender Brandon McDonald. “We have to come out and respond. We need to come out and get those three points because you see the table in the East. We know, for us, it’s definitely a must-win.”
D.C.’s back line, which struggled against Houston’s 4-3-3 in the 4-0 loss, will play without starting right back Robbie Russell (plantar fasciitis). Second-year defender Chris Korb is expected to start in his place.
Also out will be goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who was handed a red card in the 17th minute against the Dynamo. Minding the net in his stead is Joe Willis, who is 4-3-3 on the year with two shutouts.
“Columbus is an up-and-down team and those are some of the harder teams to play against,” Korb said. “For us, I think we need to win. We have that two-week break. It’d be bad to go 0-2 in those two games in between.”