Preview: D.C. United at Columbus Crew
MLS MATCHDAY 20
Columbus Crew vs D.C. United
Saturday, July 21 - 7:30 PM ET
TV: Comcast SportsNet | channel finder
In the wake of D.C. United’s 4-0 defeat in Houston lastweek, the Black-and-Red have a singular focus ahead of Saturday’s showdown withthe Columbus Crew.
"Reaction," Defender Brandon McDonald stated when askedabout the club’s goals for the weekend. "For all of us it was disappointing going down a man earlyin that game. If you look at thefirst few minutes, we could have easily been up 2-0. We have to give a good reaction to what happened inHouston."
McDonald and his teammates used the leftover frustration ofweek ago to power through a difficult stretch of training. Temperatures reached into thetriple-digits at least twice this week in Washington, and - weary ofoverextending his group – Head Coach Ben Olsen moved practice indoors on Thursday.
Aside from what has become a routine battle with the D.C.weather, United was dealt a further blow on Tuesday when the club learned thatdefender Robbie Russell is expected to miss several weeks. The veteran’s absence will make foranother moving piece on the backline in front of goalkeeper Joe Willis, the manpoised to step in for suspended starter Bill Hamid.
Willis played brilliantly during an eight-match stretchearlier this season, and – as assistant coach Pat Onstad explained early this week– more of the same is expected from United’s second-year netminder.
"I think he was a little disappointed when he lost his spot,"noted Onstad of Willis. "But he didn’t letit affect the way he trained. He’strained very hard to try to prove that he belongs on the field. He’s the type of kid that his emotionsnever get the best of him, he’ll be ready to go against Columbus."
While D.C. makes a transition in net, the Crew have thevital position locked down. Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, who ranks third in MLS with 62 saves in 2012,has had a phenomenal start to the season. Earlier this week, the 29-year-old was left off Major League Soccer’sall-star team – a decision some of his teammates hoped to turn into a talkingpoint.
"It’s like a smack in the face to us," Columbus defenderJosh Williams told MLSsoccer.com. "We’re one of the best defenses in the leagueand he’s the biggest part of it. He’s definitely deserving."
Williams’ bold claims are backed by the stats. Thus far in 2012, no Eastern Conferenceside has surrendered fewer goals (19) than Robert Warzycha’s group.
"They are a blue-collar team that is organized and good athome," Olsen added while discussing D.C.'s next opponent. "But, we need to concern ourselves withourselves right now and how we react to a disappointing loss in Houston."
» ANALYSIS: Volkswagen keys to the match