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D.C. United seek to build momentum against Chivas USA

Mid-week defeat of AC Milan gave the team a much-needed boost

After this week’s 3-2 friendly win over AC Milan, D.C. United are undefeated in non-league matches and --curiously-- undefeated on Wednesdays, scoring nine goals in three midweek games.

Alas, their weekend league matches have been another story altogether, as proven by 1-8 record in MLS play. But United head into Saturday night’s match against Chivas USA hopeful that Wednesday night’s offensive explosion against a top European club will help them break a three-match league losing streak and their accompanying 326-minute scoring drought.

“Obviously, we did chase the game a lot, but we picked and chose our moments to go forward and we did very well,” said Chris Pontius after the game against AC Milan, where he notched a goal and an assist. “That’s something we haven’t been doing very much lately.

“We need to take this into the weekend and use it as a stepping stone. Yeah, it was an international friendly, but it was kind of a warm-up for this weekend. Hopefully [it’s] the turning point in our season.”

Pontius’ return from a month on the injured list offers ample reason for optimism in the United camp, along with the expected availability of Santino Quaranta after a frightening bout with a staph infection.

Neither has regained full match fitness, however. Quaranta only returned to full training on Monday and admitted that “it was difficult to get through the 45 minutes” he logged against Milan, while Pontius believes he can offer more than the half he’s played in each of United’s last two games.

But both have been missed in the attacking end and, whether on the wings or up top, D.C. coach Curt Onalfo seems likely to turn to one or both of them at some point as he looks to improve his team’s incisiveness around goal.

“I think you saw a different element tonight. It was some dynamic players on the field and we went in with a game plan and we really stuck to it: our line of pressure, collectively how we [defended], and that’s how you win games,” said Quaranta on Wednesday. “We’re going to get our chances --we didn’t get a bunch of them, but we finished some tonight.”

The Black-and-Red back line will also hope to continue the defiance they displayed in holding off their Italian guests despite playing most of the second half a man short after Brandon Barklage suffered a severe knee injury. (His condition was officially diagnosed as a torn ACL and partially torn meniscus on Friday.)

“A win always applies to the real world,” said Devon McTavish, explaining the confidence boost his side gained from Wednesday night’s win. “We came out with good energy and I think we were more organized than we’ve been in the past. We devoted ourselves to defending and, when we got our opportunities, we scored. That’s not really something that we’ve done all year long, so if we can build on that, then I think we’ll start getting some results.”