It's been a good week for Sporting Kansas City. After snaring there points on the road against New England, SKC returned home and worked 120 minutes and won the U.S. Open Cup.
In short, D.C. United is looking to spoil the party.
"The confidence is high on this team right now," said United leading scorer Chris Pontius. "We believe we can go in there and do something special."
United goes into tonight's match at Livestrong Sporting Park on the heels of Saturday's 1-0 home result against Columbus. In that game Pontius continued his magnificent 2012 with his tenth goal, but Dwayne De Rosario suffered a sore shoulder and is now listed as doubtful to play against Kansas City.
De Rosario has played in all 21 of United's matches this season and he would be missed if he is forced to the bench. Still United has proven to be resilient with their depth and versatility. For example, both De Rosario and Pontius have succeeded in forward and midfield roles.
De Rosario and newcomer Long Tan has been the first choice tandem up top for United. Tan is likely to continue in his role. He has impressed with his runs off the ball and ability to get into scoring position. Tan's lone MLS goal was last year against United when he played for Vancouver.
De Rosario did train on Thursday and United's need for him to play is heightened by a shortage of healthy forwards. Head coach Ben Olsen's other favored forward options Maicon Santos and Hamdi Salihi are out. Salihi has a toe injury and Santos is dealing with a stomach virus.
United also knows it will have to go without Robbie Russell again at right back where Chris Korb has served as a more than a capable fill-in. Daniel Woolard, who was having his best professional season, is now also on the sideline with concussion symptoms and that presents an opening at left back.
On the plus side Andy Najar is back with the United after playing for Honduras at the Olympics where Los Catrachos reached the quarterfinals. Najar rejoins a team that has been getting inspired play from its flanks with Pontius and more recently rookie Nick De Leon. Najar will have to again compete for his spot if there is not room in the starting eleven because of injury.
"I talked to Andy to make sure he understands it's D.C. United time," Olsen said. "I have been through that and whether you do well or not it is intense being apart of the Olympics. Doing well may be even is more taxing. He didnt play the last game and he didnt have 90-minute games before that."
On Wednesday Sporting Kansas City claimed its second U.S. Open Cup title, but it took penalty kicks to decide it after the match with the Seattle Sounders finished 1-1 through 120 minutes. The match marked the return of Roger Espinoza from playing with Najar for Honduras at the Olympics.
"Kansas City not an easy place to play," said Pontius. "Hopefully we can catch them on a little bit of tired legs and then make them pay. They are very athletic, very organized and they have Espinoza back and that will be a plus for them."
Sporting head coach Peter Vermes might have to adjust his lineup given the minutes his charges have been put through. It is possible that C.J. Sapong, who is from Manassas, could factor in the game after missing the last two matches with a hip injury. Sapong has five goals and is second to Kei Kamara, who has eight goals, on the SKC scoring chart.
"Regardless of what they (SKC) put out there, it's still a philosophy that's the same," noted Olsen. "The way we want to go about them is not going to change. They have a good team speed about them, they like to pressure high and get you in bad spots."
Sporting does not give up much on defense. In the last six matches SKC has recorded four clean sheets. The 1-0 win over New England was the 10th shutout of the season for goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, keeping him in a tie for the league lead with Houston's Tally Hall.