Record set, but job is not done.
After Wednesday’s 3-1 win over Chicago, DC United is now sporting a new record with a 20-game home unbeaten run across all competitions. That’s nice, but United is focused on a successful conclusion to its stretch of five games in fourteen days.
The Black and Red is home Saturday to face Toronto FC and despite the congested schedule and injuries to key players is securely in first place in the Eastern Conference with 28 points from 15 matches. United’s success is a credit to the team’s depth and head coach Ben Olsen’s roster management.
On the season United has used 12 different starting lineups. Over the last four matches 18 different players have featured in United’s first eleven including two goalkeepers. Fabian Espindola is now back from a six-game absence because of injury and after playing the final 45 minutes Wednesday showed he is ready to return to the starting lineup.
Toronto FC is the only MLS team to have never qualified for the playoffs even though the Reds joined the league back in 2007. Because of stadium construction Toronto opened with a heavy road schedule and lost four of its first five games, but in its last six league games has four wins, one tie, and only one loss.
1. A complete game: United has developed a bad habit of slow starts. In each of the last four games United has conceded the first goal including twice in the first five minutes of a match. United has not played with a lead since May 9th, but even then it was only for three minutes in a 1-1 tie with Sporting Kansas City. Head coach Ben Olsen mentioned the team’s inconsistency after the win over the Fire: “The tale-of-two-halves stuff is getting old. We’ve gotten away with it the last two games, and you are not always going to get away with it, but we have been.”
2. Dealing with Toronto FC. Toronto will be missing USMNT players Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore. Bradley is with the United States for its friendlies against Netherlands and Germany. Altidore has had a terrific season with five goals, but is sidelined by a hamstring injury. Sebastian Giovinco has delivered the quality and he will challenge United’s center backs. In addition to Giovinco’s ability to finish, he had two assists in last week’s 3-1 win over San Jose.
[MORE D.C. UNITED Espindola gives United surge in win vs Fire]