It is probably over the top to talk about must-wins for D.C. United in April, but after a three-win campaign last season that kind of talk is almost unavoidable. United is eager to show that the team is moving forward beyond just on paper and has a chance to take that step if it secures the full three points Saturday against New England at R.F.K Stadium.
Last Saturday against Chicago was not one of those draws that felt like a victory. United dictated the match against the Fire, had most of the quality opportunities, and for most of the game the lead on the scoreboard. While United is pained by settling for a point at home, the chains started to come off the offense and there was a brightness to the attack.
The challenge against New England:
1. D.C. United has a question in the middle. Luis Silva is out for three to four weeks with a left ankle injury suffered in the 2-2 tie with Chicago. Losing a key starter to a still developing offense is a blow, but unlike last season United seems better suited to handle injuries. Veteran Davy Arnaud is certainly one option to fill Silva’s role and did last week after the injury. If Arnaud is the choice then Lewis Neal likely would start on the left side of midfield and Nick De Leon on the right. Jared Jeffrey in his brief time with United has displayed the quality that led to success at the youth national level and time in Belgium and Germany. Jeffrey started ten games last year for United and produced two goals. It should be noted that United has options in midfield even with Chris Pontius sidelined indefinitely with a hamstring injury.
2. Welcome back Eddie Johnson. D.C. United is hoping this is the week that Johnson opens his scoring account with the Black and Red. On Wednesday with the United States Men’s National Team Johnson was active in the 2-2 tie with Mexico in Phoenix. Johnson came on in the 64th minute, and it looked he had the potential game-winner in the 86th on a terrific through ball from Clint Dempsey and finished from twelve yards out. Johnson was ruled offside, but it looked like he timed his run perfectly. It’s been a busy week for Johnson with his national team duties and cross country travel, but his quality is due to shine through for United.
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3. The Chris Rolfe factor. On the subject of Johnson’s quality, he is a strong candidate to be on the plane to Brazil with USMNT. With that in mind, and dealing with injuries to Silva and Pontius on the attack, United traded this week with Chicago for veteran Chris Rolfe. In the deal involving allocation money, United has another proven scorer. Rolfe only had four goals last season, but he recorded 48 goals in 178 league matches in seven-plus seasons with the Fire. Rolfe just got off a plane from Chicago on Thursday, but could see time Saturday especially with Johnson having had a busy week.
4. The Revolution. Like United, New England stumbled into the season and lost its first two games. In the Revolution’s season opener, they didn’t look ready in a 4-0 loss to Houston and then lost to Philadelphia 1-0. Since then the Revs have managed a 0-0 draw with Vancouver and found a way to a 2-1 win in San Jose. Lee Nguyen can be dangerous in the midfield and scored the game-winner last week. Teal Bunbury operates as the lone striker up top for the Revolution and United has to be prepared for the pace on the outside of midfielders Saer Sene and Diego Fagundez.