United look to break Mile High hex
WASHINGTON — In a league marked by persistent parity, the history between D.C. United and the Colorado Rapids has played out with a reassuring sort of predictability, guided by one dominant rule: the home side hardly ever loses.
Perhaps there are advantages provided by altitude on one side and summer humidity on the other, or maybe it’s mere happenstance. But United have not won in Colorado in more than a decade, while the Rapids can claim just three wins all-time in the nation’s capital.
Having said that, Colorado secured victory on their visit to RFK Stadium earlier this year, one of the underwhelming performances that sent D.C. stumbling out to a 1-8 start to the season. Now United are hoping that they too can buck the past in this weekend’s match at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
“This has been a backwards year, I think, in terms of this club,” United assistant coach Chad Ashton said this week. “So hopefully we can maybe switch a result there and turn that the other way around.”
The league’s stragglers must already contend with a confident, in-form opponent on an expansive playing surface at a lung-bursting elevation, so the coaching staff sees little use in adding another challenge to the list.
“I’m sure a lot of the players on our team have no idea with regards to the history,” added Ashton, “so we’ll probably just keep it like that.”
The Rapids have been dominant at home this season and will look to extend a five-game winning streak in Commerce City on Saturday. Omar Cummings is currently the league’s hottest striker, and his pace, along with the thin mountain air, will probably prompt United to sit deeper and wait for counterattacking opportunities.
“It’s one of the more difficult places to go in the league, just because of the altitude," Ashton said.
"It is what it is. But you have to go in there and just not think about it, put it out of your mind. You have to be a little bit smarter in how you play.”