There have been times when the addition of an international friendly to D.C. Uniteds schedule has added chaos to an already crowded calendar. The summer of 2012 is not one of those times. United is looking forward to Saturdays visit of Paris St. Germain to R.F.K. Stadium.
We absolutely need it, said United head coach Ben Olsen of the game against PSG. We have to go after this and use this as a real game and an exercise to get us better. The summer has been a little slow for us and this is a chance to go against what I look at from pre-season one of the best teams in the world right now.
PSG is going through a major transformation. Last season they finished second to surprise champions Montpellier in Frances Ligue One. Now even more is expected of side coached by former Chelsea FC manager Carlo Ancelotti. In the last two years PSG has spent 243 million dollars buying players.
PSGs shopping spree includes Swedish International Zlatan Ibrahimovic who now holds the record as the worlds most expensive footballer. Ibrahimovic scored 28 goals in 32 games last year for AC Milan and moved to Paris on a transfer fee estimated at 22 million dollars. In his career clubs have spent close to 170 million dollars on Ibrahimovic.
Ibrahimovic was only a part of PSGs hot summer. Defender Thiago Silva also moved from Milan to Paris and many considered the Brazilian center back to be the best at his position in the world. In addition flank player Ezequiel Lavezzi, who helped script Napolis success in Serie A and Champions League, joined PSG.
I think they are set to be one of the worlds top clubs, said Uniteds Chris Pontius. I expect PSG to challenge for the Champions League trophy next year especially with all the acquisitions they have made. You look at them against Chelsea and there were very, very good.
Pontius scored the goal that tied the game at two in the Major League All Stars 3-2 victory over Chelsea on Wednesday. The assist on the goal was from teammate Dwayne De Rosario and led to Pontius being named MVP of the All Star game. It was another triumphant example of Pontius recovery from a broken leg last September.
If you would told me coming out of high school in California that I would be playing against Chelsea and PSG in the same week I would have said you were crazy, said Pontius. We had success at the All Star game and I am hoping for the same against PSG.
We have to be organized and pick our moments when to go, added Pontius. They (PSG) have some players that can hurt you and we have to limit our mistakes They are going to chances and they are going to get their looks.
United is set to face PSG at a time when they seem out of rhythm. In its last five matches the Black and Red has only managed wins against Philadelphia and Montreal and has been shutout in recent defeats to Columbus and Houston. Through the summer slump Pontius has still prevailed and scored four of the teams last six goals.
You want to see with guys that do well in the MLS is how they perform when they play with better players, Olsen said. The other night (All Star game) was a pretty big step for him (Pontius). I know the game had opened up, but the stage was big and he did well. I think it will help Chris move forward and continue on the run he has been on.
Now it is about getting the rest of United moving in a forward direction again. Olsen does not believe his team is that far away from getting back to its winning ways. Olsen has dismissed the 4-0 loss to Houston when United was reduced to ten men and doesnt think the 1-0 loss to Columbus was as bad as he first thought.
We need games, Olsen said of United. You can train and play 11-v-11, but it is not the same. We need to get in that mode of playing each week. We need to improve against PSG so we can get set for a big game at home against Columbus.
Imagine that, PSG is being used as a tune-up for Columbus. It is the stark reality for a United side that has only played five league matches in two months. For Olsen it will be his second test in four days against a European power after serving as head coach of the All-Star team.
And all I can think about is Columbus, Olsen said with a laugh. Thats the crazy thing about this, but thats where the job takes you. My focus is on our group and how we go about making the playoffs. Still I try to enjoy it. I really enjoyed it the other night, but I probably will enjoy it (PSG) less because it is my group and it is an important game for us.