WASHINGTON – D.C. United are well aware of the fact that they’ve never won in Houston. They’re just not in any mood to hear about it.
“We’ve broken enough ceilings this year to not break that one,” United head coach Ben Olsen said after a training session earlier this week “There’s no excuse for us not having won a game there.”
United are a staggering 0-11-1 in games played at Houston since the Dynamo’s inception in 2006. They’ve scored six goals in those games – Houston have tallied 24. United, of course, aren’t the only ones who’ve struggled to collect road points against the Dynamo: On two different occasions (2008, 2009) the Dynamo lost just a single match at home. In 2012, they didn’t lose any.
So what is it that makes Houston such a tough place to play? Excuses abound: elevated temperatures, a narrow field – and obviously a Dynamo side that has been one of Major League Soccer’s most consistently competitive clubs over the past eight years.
United get Houston this Sunday afternoon (3 pm ET, MLS LIVE). The Dynamo are making a late-season surge – as they almost always seem to do – in an attempt to claim the Eastern Conference’s fifth and final playoff spot. DC have business of their own to take care of: A victory at Houston goes a long, long way towards securing the top spot in the East and the CONCACAF Champions League berth that comes along with it.
Of United’s recent squads, their current collection of players seems well-equipped to get the monkey of the franchise’s back when it comes to the dry spell in Houston: very few of the players currently sporting a black-and-red kit have any extended history with DC. Nearly half of the current roster weren’t even in DC a year ago. Many of them have much fonder memories of H-Town.
And then there’s Bobby Boswell, United’s affable captain who spent six years on the other side, anchoring a Dynamo side that qualified for the playoffs in all but one season of his tenure there. He’s probably less concerned about the statistical improbability of a United victory than anybody else.
“I don’t think this group really even knows that the club hasn’t won there,” Boswell said after training on Friday. “Earlier this year we won at Kansas City for the first time, and we didn’t even realize it. I don’t think we follow that stuff. I’m aware of it, but I feel like with this group, we’re more about going out and doing the job.”
“There’s players here who’ve won in Houston,” Olsen said. “Even guys who played for Houston and won all the time. The baggage that comes with that stuff, the guys don’t buy into it."
“If there’s a group that can go in there and get this done,” Boswell added, “it’s this one.”
Pablo Maurer covers DC United for MLSsoccer.com.