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Houston, DC focus on table

27 April 4:07 pm

Houston, DC focus on table

By Sebastian Salazar

Houston coach Dominic Kinnear already has an eye on the Eastern Conference table

D.C. United held a closed training session Friday morning as the club made final preparations for Saturday's match against the Houston Dynamo.  A few notes from around RFK:

NEVER TOO EARLY

While it's easy to brush off a late April match as 'just another game', D.C. United fans should be cautious about underestimating the importance of Saturday's encounter with Houston. 

Most might think it too early to start talking standings and - gasp - playoffs, but Saturday's opponents are already in that frame of mind.

D.C. United held a closed training session Friday morning as the club made final preparations for Saturday's match against the Houston Dynamo.  A few notes from around RFK:

NEVER TOO EARLY

While it's easy to brush off a late April matchas 'just another game', D.C. United fans should be cautious aboutunderestimating the importance of Saturday's encounter with Houston. 

Most might think it too early to start talkingstandings and - gasp - playoffs, but Saturday's opponents are already in thatframe of mind.

"They are all important," saidHouston coach Domnic Kinnear early this week.  "It is the sixth game of the season but they have alittle bit of a lead on us in the standings."

Kinnear's early focus on the Eastern Conferencetable is far from premature.  OnMay 15 of last year, the Black-and-Red sat sixth in the Eastern Conference,just one spot ahead of where the club finished the 2011 regular season.  United are presently in second placeheading into the weekend, a marked improvement as D.C.approaches the one-quarter mark of its schedule.

TALL TASK

How do you improve upon a hat trick?

That's the question facing Chris Pontius afterhis brilliant performance against New York last Sunday.  The midfielder-turned-forward spentmuch of practice this week doing some 'on the job' training for his newposition.

"I still have a lot to learn," the24-year-old admitted on Thursday. "The runs are different, and you basically play with your back togoal a lot of times.  I have to bestronger on the ball and just learn to play off whoever is up there."

Pontius' hat trick pushed him into a four-waytie for fourth place on the MLS scoring charts.  Of the league's top scorers, the Californian is one of themost efficient, scoring his four goals on just eleven shots.

BACK IN THE MIX

Holding midfielder Marcelo Saragosa rejoined the club on Wednesday after returning to Brazil following his father's sudden passing two weeks ago.  On Friday, D.C. head coach Ben Olsenwouldn't say whether Saragosa would be available for selection on Saturday, butseemed optimistic.

"He looks fine," United's taskmasterreplied when asked about Saragosa's fitness. 

The Brazilian's return is a welcome boost for a United centralmidfield that needs some depth. Since returning from Olympic qualifying duty - where he played three matchesin five days - Perry Kitchen has been on the field for every minute of D.C.'slast five contests.