WASHINGTON – Throughout D.C. United’s week of training, Ben Olsen worked on drills to help his team in possession and stressed improvement in the attack.
Saturday against Columbus, in United’s second home match of the season (3:30 pm ET, NBCSN LIVE chat MLSsoccer.com), the club will find out if its offensive-minded week of training paid off.
“I want to see us be able to take over a game,” midfielder Chris Pontius said following Friday’s training session. “I want to see us be on the ball more. I think that will result in a lot more chances for us offensively. I want to see the offensive side clicking more.
“At training, things always look good, so it’ll be interesting to see how it goes in the game. But I think a huge thing is that we’ve got to create options off the ball for each other to make things easier.”
United have just one goal through three matches, but enter the match with Columbus on four points (1-1-1). In the early going, they appear to have relied a bit too heavily on winning one-on-one battles instead of, as Pontius said, creating off-ball opportunities.
“I’m not that concerned with winning the possession battle every game,” Olsen said. “We just can’t defend for the stretches we defended in New York. And that will get better as we get our rhythm offensively.”
One attacking player who’s hoping to make a difference is veteran Carlos Ruiz. A proven goalscorer, Ruiz came close to putting one past Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando the last time D.C. played at RFK Stadium.
“It’s going to come sooner or later between all the players and the defense trying to have good possession of the ball,” Ruiz said. “I’m feeling much better. All these practices, friendly games, are helping me to feel better. I hope I can play more minutes and try to help my teammates.”
United will be without starting center back Dejan Jakovic and midfielder Marcos Sánchez, as both are with their national teams. Either Ethan White or Daniel Woolard likely will replace Jakovic playing alongside Brandon McDonald.
“We’re going to find out about some other guys and it’s a good time of the year to do that,” Olsen said.