There are no style points now for D.C. United, only points in the standings. Uniteds quest to end a five year playoff drought is set to continue on Saturday in Portland with Ben Olsens team strengthened by a goal-scoring boom, but fully prepared to grind out a result.
With four games to go, United enters the weekend in fourth place in Major League Soccers Eastern Conference on 50 points and four points ahead of Houston. The top five teams make the post season and goal scoring is the first tie breaker. United is positioned well with 47 goals, second in the conference to New Yorks 50 goals.
United has scored multiple goals in 14 games this season, but United also taken great pride in securing 1-0 victories in the last two games of its current three-game winning streak. It is Uniteds longest winning streak since May and has come with Dwayne De Rosario sidelined by a knee injury.
Once you win a 1-0 game, they are great, said head coach Ben Olsen. We dont have many of them (1-0 wins) at this club in the last four or five years. Hanging on, especially when these teams have nothing to lose and they just throw crazy numbers forward, it not an easy task. We need to still continue to get better in this next couple games because it is all going to get tougher.
In Uniteds 1-0 win over Chivas USA Sunday, Branko Boskovic came through with his first goal in a Black and Red uniform. Boskovics lifeline to three critical points at home was scored as Chivas continued to introduce offensive players instead of playing like a road team satisfied with a 0-0 draw,
In Portland, United will be dealing with another team that has to throw caution to the wind.
The Timbers are nine points out of a playoff spot with four games to play. On the season the Timbers have given up 50 goals, second only to Toronto F.C., but are difficult at home. They have sold out 32 consecutive matches, and currently have a four game unbeaten streak at Jeld-Wen Field.
Portland is not an easy team, stressed United defender Brandon McDonald. You look at their record you could go Oh we should win this, but its not like that. In this league, anybody can beat anybody so we have to go out and we have to start taking our away matches like we do our home matches.
Uniteds most interesting question remains in midfield. Recently Boskovic has been both a starter and a substitute.
The Timbers have conceded the most goals in the league from set-pieces and United could benefit from Boskovics quality on free kicks and corner kicks. He has also been an asset as a reserve and the central midfield partnership of Perry Kitchen and Marcelo Saragosa has been effective.
Formations are nice to talk about, but this time of year is often more about raw determination.
Before a total collapse in 2010, United just missed out on the playoffs on the final day of the 2008 and 2009 campaigns. United believes it has the depth to avoid a similar fate over the next three weeks.
This is my fourth year here and not having been able to make the playoffs hurts, because this is a team that has had so much success, said United defender Dejan Jakovic. So Im definitely focused on that and Im trying to do anything possible to get this team to the playoffs. And not just the playoffs, but even further.