United seek redemption vs. Seattle
WASHINGTON -- D.C. United look forward to their home matches, and with good reason. Only one MLS team has entered RFK Stadium this year and come away with a victory.But that team was Seattle Sounders FC, and the game they won was arguably the season's biggest match to date at RFK: last week's U.S. Open Cup final. By their own admission, United were second-best on that occasion and suffered a 2-1 defeat that was further aggravated by the sight of the league's newest arrivals parading the trophy they had just wrestled away from D.C. on their home ground.If United can take any silver lining from the dispiriting experience, it's the fact that they have had to wait just 10 days for a chance to settle the score. Seattle return to the nation's capital for a league match this weekend and while revenge would seem to be the dominant theme for the Black-and-Red, it's noteworthy that Bryan Namoff uses a different 'R' word to describe his team's mentality for the rematch."I think we definitely need to provide them with some payback, so yeah, there's definitely some redemption talk going on," said D.C.'s veteran defender. "It would be nice to have a chance at another good team like Seattle again. We should definitely have a bitter taste in our mouth because they're the only team that beat us at home this year."Beyond the disappointment of missing out on the Dewar Trophy and the associated international opportunities it offers in the form of CONCACAF competition, United simply feel let down by their own performance in the Sept. 2 title match, which played out in front of a spirited home crowd whose enthusiasm lent the night a postseason-type atmosphere.The club expects an even bigger turnout on Saturday night and the stakes are significant in their own right, as United's playoff aspirations hinge on a series of positive results in their current five-game home stand. D.C. finally moved into a wildcard spot with Wednesday's 1-0 win over Kansas City, but have played more games than several other contending clubs and could easily slip back down in the standings should they fail to garner a win against Sounders FC."We have a nice little home stretch right here," said goalkeeper Josh Wicks, "and we need to keep going on the wins we have, and hopefully this weekend we'll get another win and add three more points to our status and move up."Wicks' excellent netminding kept his team in contention for the first two-thirds of the Open Cup final, only for him to be ejected for a belligerent stomp on Sounders FC striker Fredy Montero. He says the rematch with Seattle has no special meaning for him, but come Saturday he would surely savor a strong performance as much as anyone on the field."There's nothing to prove," he said on Wednesday. "It's just another game and I'm going to go out there and do what I do -- and stay on the field."Montero and the rest of Seattle's freewheeling attack can pose problems for any back line and due to injuries, the D.C. defense is particularly shorthanded at the moment. But Tom Soehn's side has shown greater resilience in a 4-4-2 alignment of late, racking up clean sheets in three of their last four league matches, and United recognize the importance of keeping a compact team shape against Sounders FC and avoiding the "track meet" mentality that pervaded their 3-3 league draw in Seattle earlier this season."We need to find a balance of going forward and keeping our defensive shape. It's something we need to work on," said Devon McTavish, who seems likely to earn a second consecutive start at center back. "At times we've done well, at times we've got strung out."Having allowed five goals in its two meetings with Seattle this season, D.C. are keen to pitch another shutout and seem willing to make some compromises at the attacking end of the field in order to do so."We've got to keep battling," said midfielder Clyde Simms. "But we're going the right direction. We're getting the basics down and hopefully the pretty stuff will come, and we'll bring it all together."