WASHINGTON – After resting three key players for most of Saturday’s 3-0 loss against Montreal, D.C. United coach Ben Olsen insisted that fitness won’t be an issue when rival New York visits RFK Stadium on Wednesday night (8 pm ET, Galavision).
“I don’t foresee any issues, physically, for us in [Wednesday’s] game,” Olsen said following Tuesday’s training session.
Truthfully, though, the real question mark in D.C. centers on the side’s recent form.
In the midst of a five-match stretch over two weeks, United still haven’t regained the form that launched them to the top of the Eastern Conference standings earlier this season. Currently, D.C. (12-9-4, 40 points) are in fifth, one point ahead of surging Montreal and five behind second-place New York (13-7-6, 45 points).
But there would appear to be a number of factors in D.C.’s favor when they take on the Red Bulls on Wednesday in a match with more far-reaching implications than who claims the Atlantic Cup title.
First, United has shown an ability to rebound after road losses. In seven attempts this season, D.C. are 4-1-2 following a loss away from RFK, with 10 goals scored and two against. After shutout losses, United are 2-2-0 with four goals scored and four against.
“It’s one of those things where we’ve been doing well when it comes to bouncing back after a loss,” defender Brandon McDonald said. “For us, we’ve got to put together some streaks again. At the beginning of the season, we were kind of hot. Right now, we’re kind of off-and-on.”
But with the collective health of the squad rapidly improving, the hope is some consistency can return United to their winning ways.
Defender Robbie Russell trained with the team Tuesday for the first time in more than a month. Forward Maicon Santos also returned to training and newly-acquired Brazilian midfielder Raphael Augusto trained with his new club for the first time. Olsen said Tuesday that “everybody’s fine,” including Nick DeLeon, who missed the match against Montreal because of illness.
In addition, captain Dwayne De Rosario, Chris Pontius and Branko Boskovic all should be relatively well-rested for Wednesday’s match.
“Obviously playing 90 [minutes] on that day would have made me a little bit more tired. We had an extra day to recover. … I think everyone’s feeling pretty good about this one,” Pontius said.
In truth, D.C. have reason to be confident, especially playing in front of their home fans.
Despite playing in front of a relatively small crowd in last Wednesday’s 4-2 drubbing of Chicago, United still extended their unbeaten streak at RFK Stadium to 12 matches. D.C. are now 9-1-3 this year at RFK, their only loss coming to Sporting Kansas City on First Kick weekend. With a win or draw Wednesday against the Red Bulls, United would equal the club record for consecutive home matches without a defeat.
“You look at our record at home, we’ve done pretty well. When we play at home, the fans are behind us 100 percent,” McDonald said. “Playing with that energy, it’s a whole different animal when we’re here.”