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Back in action

United heads to Kansas City after a week off

Dejan Jakovic diving header

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USA Today Sports Images

After D.C. United’s scoreless draw against New York on March 16, coach Ben Olsen stressed that his team needed to be better in possession.

Following a loss against Columbus at RFK Stadium the next weekend, Olsen said that his club needed to return to the basics.

Now, after a weekend off, United is two days away from a trip to Kansas City and eager to execute what they’ve focusing on at training.

“I think it’s been good,” Jakovic said of the emphasis at training. “Obviously, we’re kind of back to the fundamentals of playing the ball out wide and holding the ball up top with the midfield kind of pushing and supporting. Everything’s been sharp. Guys look good. Hopefully we’ll be prepared to play a real good Kansas City side, especially at home.” Jakovic, who missed the match against Columbus because he was in Qatar with the Canadian national team, is back in the mix for United’s defense this week.

“Qatar was great. It was a great experience,” Jakovic said. “We played two good-quality teams … Overall, it was a good little test for us before the Gold Cup.”

The tall, steady center back brings defensive stability to a group that’s been defending for long stretches this season. That trend could continue when United enters Sporting Park without one of their better offensive players in winger Nick DeLeon. Either Kyle Porter or Marcos Sanchez are the favorites to step into DeLeon’s spot, but there’s little doubt the second-year playmaker will be difficult to replace.

When captain Dwayne De Rosario was suspended for the first two games of the season, Perry Kitchen pushed forward and joined the attack more frequently than he did last season. Depending on the formation and situation, he could do the same again Friday.

“That’s something that is usually based on personnel. There are times when I could see myself getting forward a little bit more, but I’m a defensive midfielder first,” Kitchen said.

Jakovic said that the club’s main focus is on defense and keeping clean sheets, but with two goals in four matches United feels the outbreak’s going to come. They’re just not sure when.

“Obviously, we need to do a little better job of keeping the ball and giving ourselves a chance to have possession and move forward,” Jakovic said. “But I think that’s going to come with time.”