WASHINGTON – For D.C. United fans looking for reasons to believe in a comeback bid against the Houston Dynamo in Sunday's Eastern Conference Championship second leg (4 pm ET, NBC Sports Network), look no further than RFK Stadium.
United, who need to make up a 3-1 aggregate-goal deficit, feel that playing at RFK is perhaps one of the bigger factors that could play a part in Sunday’s outcome. D.C. are unbeaten at home since March 10 and with more than 17,000 tickets already sold, the club expects a sellout.
“The way we play, at home in particular, it helps,” said D.C. manager Ben Olsen (above). “We’ll be excited to have that homefield advantage. Hopefully that can continue.”
Added D.C. midfielder Perry Kitchen: “It definitely gives us confidence for sure. We know we’ve been a good team at home, we know what we have to do and we just have to continue it.”
WATCH: Get pumped up for DC's 2nd leg
An aspect of playing at home that could help D.C. United with possession and ball movement is that RFK features a wider pitch than Houston's home at BBVA Compass Stadium.
“That’s going to make a huge difference,” said United Rookie of the Year candidate Nick DeLeon. “Their field is a lot more narrow. Here at RFK, we’ll really be able to move the ball side to side and expose those gaps they leave in the middle for us.”
Olsen, one of three nominees revealed Thursday for the MLS Coach of the Year, said that despite trailing in the series, not much has to change tactically.
“We’re certainly going to have to be a little bit more aggressive, but nothing really has to change,” Olsen said. “We’ve had success at home playing the way we play at home. It’s not a thing where we need two goals in the first 20 minutes. If we’re in good shape toward the end of this game with a lead, I like our chances. But we can’t give one up, can’t be silly, in particular on set pieces which they have shown they’re pretty darn good at.”
Despite facing a difficult task to keep their season alive, compounded by injuries to key players, United feel confident in the style of play that got them here in the first place.
“We have to play our game,” center back Dejan Jakovic said after Wednesday’s training. “We know we’re going to keep the ball. Chances are going to come. We feel confident in ourselves that we will be able to at least get a couple goals.
“We’re going to stick with our gameplan,” continued Jakovic. “We’re not going to change anything. We know, obviously they have the advantage, they’re going to sit back and defend most of the game. We have to be patient with the ball, move it side to side and look for openings. This is far from over.”
Nick Cammarota covers D.C. United for MLSsoccer.com.