WASHINGTON – Minutes before D.C. United returned from their Tuesday morning training session, the maintenance crew at RFK Stadium tested the fire alarms outside of the locker room.
An omen, perhaps?
With just one win in their previous five matches and the club clinging to a one-point lead in the Eastern Conference's fifth slot, United are in desperate need of a victory on the heels of an emotional 1-1 draw against Philadelphia on Sunday.
And the Chicago Fire, winners of three straight and now suddenly ahead of United in the Eastern Conference standings, are on deck Wednesday at RFK (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
“It’s a big game,” said D.C. leading scorer Chris Pontius. “There’s no other way to put it. I think everyone understands that in this locker room.”
The good news for D.C. (11-8-4, 37 points) is that they’ve played fewer games than every club above them in the Eastern Conference standings and, with a victory, have a chance to pull within one point of fourth-place Chicago (12-7-5, 41).
And they’ll be at home, where they haven’t lost since March 10.
The bad news is that they’ll be without defender Emiliano Dudar and midfielder Branko Boskovic (right), both of whom were handed red cards near the conclusion of Sunday’s frenzied draw. Coupled with injuries to Robbie Russell (plantar fasciitis), Daniel Woolard (concussion-like symptoms) and Maicon Santos (toe soreness), United aren’t entering the match with an ideal lineup.
“We have some injuries and we could make excuses, but we’ve got to get it done,” Olsen said. “It doesn’t matter who’s out, red cards, injuries, it’s that time of the season where we need to man up.”
In the midst of a two week stretch that includes five games, the club welcomes the chance to move on quickly from Sunday’s disappointing result. Especially against Chicago, a side to which captain Dwayne De Rosario (above) said D.C. “owes something.”
Last October, the Fire scored two stoppage time goals to stun United at RFK in a loss that dealt a harsh blow to D.C.’s playoff hopes. United haven’t beaten Chicago since Aug. 29, 2009.
“Hopefully this time, we set the tone with our intensity and we play a good full 90 minutes,” De Rosario said.
The Fire enter the game on form, with new acquisitions Álvaro Fernández, Sherjill MacDonald and Chris Rolfe all playing vital parts on a team that’s scored seven goals in the past three matches.
“I think they’re a much better team than they were at the beginning of the year,” Olsen said. “Frank [Klopas] has done a good job with them. They’re a fun team to watch. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”