A shorthanded D.C. United come to Pizza Hut Park on Saturday for the second of two league meetings against FC Dallas this season, with the home side trying to make it a clean sweep against the MLS Cup champion this year.
In the first meeting in MLS play, on May 28, Carlos Ruiz pumped in two goals (one a bicycle kick that won him Sierra Mist Goal of the Week honors) as FCD won 2-0. Then the teams met in the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Ruiz scoring with almost the final kick of the first 90 minutes to force extra time and the Hoops eventually won in a penalty shootout.
D.C. United will be without MLS Golden Boot front-runner Jaime Moreno as well as high-energy midfielder Ben Olsen. Moreno will be serving a suspension for a red card he received against Colorado in United's last match, a 1-0 loss, and Olsen will be sidelined due to accumulation of caution points.
"[Moreno] definitely gives them a different look because of what he provides," said FCD right back Bobby Rhine. "He can distribute the ball and go one-on-one and few players can do that and with him out, there is a different dimension there. But I still think they will be a team that is very organized."
Despite missing the influential pair, the defending champion will still be a formidable opponent for the Hoops, with Argentinian playmaker Christian Gomez and teen phenom Freddy Adu tabbed to lead the attack.
"Obviously, Gomez is real technical and he reads the game very well and Adu has his speed and quickness and I think they work well together and play off each other pretty well. With that being said, we have to keep them in front of us and Gomez even though he plays very technical he has enough speed to get behind the defense and Freddy has enough confidence to take you on one-on-one," said defender Chris Gbandi.
"I think he [Moreno] is a big part of their offense and I am sure if he was playing it would be tough for us to keep a clean sheet. With Jaime not there, everything pretty much runs through him -- I am sure some other guys are going to have to step up."
United not only bolster a high-powered attack but the defense is also a quality group, posting a stout 1.16 goals against average, the fourth-best in MLS.
"I don't think their defense gets enough credit and they don't really give up many goals. I think they are pretty good in the back and they don't give up a lot of chances," Rhine said. "I would expect the same from them on Saturday -- I think it is a combination of the defense and Nick Rimando proving over the season they are solid.
"We worked on some things in practice at the beginning of the week and we look to get our guys up top to create a lot of chances," he added.
Without the services of FCD captain Simo Valakari, also serving a suspension for caution points, Dallas will have their hands full -- especially with the influence of Adu, expected to start alongside Santino Quaranta in attack.
"Last time we played him [Freddy Adu] in the Open Cup he did pretty well, said Gbandi. "You can tell he is getting a lot more confident taking on guys and things like that. I think when you try to underestimate him that is when he bites you. I think he is a good player."
Added Rhine: "I expect him to be motivated and always looking to prove himself. He will be playing at Pizza Hut Park for the first time with a large crowd and a lot of folks will certainly be there to see him. I would expect him to want to be there for his team."
Ron Goode is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the apporval of Majro League Soccer or its clubs.