U.S. Open Cup disappointment aside, D.C. United is trying to keep the feel-good factor going. The Black and Red navigated their way to three points last week in Philadelphia to remain in first place and now feature an All-Star coach on the sideline for Sundays game against New York.
It was announced this week that Ben Olsen will serve as head coach when the Major League Soccer All Stars play Chelsea next month in Philadelphia. Olsen, who takes his job seriously but not himself, joked that he was the choice because they ran out of candidates and with the game at PPL Park it would be an easy commute for him.
In reality Olsen, in only his second full season as head coach, is honored at his All-Star inclusion. Olsen is quick to make it a team honor with credit to his players and staff. It adds up because United continues to come together as a group. Depth had added competition within the squad and the strength is showing in the results.
In jumping back into league play after a 22-day break, United found a way to get the desired result against the Union and extend its winning streak to four games. As expected the Union, playing in interim head coachs John Hackworths first game, brought fresh ideas and energy to the field. The Union had the better of the possession and play, but United had Chris Pontius goal to secure the 1-0 win.
The ability to grind out results is a big difference this year, said Olsen. Last year we were in a bunch of games, but we just did not have the experience to manage games and see games out. We do want to get to that point where we are dominating possession and style. That still needs to come.
As United goes in pursuit of that style, the plot thickens. With the aid of some traveling United supporters, Sunday nights nationally televised match against the Red Bulls is sold out. The match will also be the second in the Atlantic Cup. With the support of Chris Pontius hat trick United won the first meeting back in April 4-1.
United vs. Red Bulls is also a top of the table clash. After 16 matches United is at the top with 30 points. The Red Bulls are in third place and have 27 points from 15 matches with Sporting Kansas City sandwiched in between on 29 points from just 14 matches. The Red Bulls managed to salvage a 1-1 tie mid-week on the road against Vancouver.
The Red Bulls have now gone three games without a win since running up an impressive five-game winning streak. Most of that winning streak was accomplished without forward Thierry Henry, who has been bothered by a calf strain. In addition defender Rafael Marquez has been absent because of a thigh injury, but both players could be on the field Sunday.
If Henry is in the lineup we know what he offers, added Olsen. But for the most part well try and get ourselves as ready as we can be on our side and everything we can control on our end and then see what their lineup has in store when we get to New York.
Indeed regardless of who is in on New Yorks side, United has to be focused on developing the way Olsen wants his team to play. There are no excuses. United is healthy and can use the summer months for a launching pad for a strong finish to the season and a road win on Sunday would add rocket fuel to the cause.