With departure for Houston less than 24 hours away, the Black-and-Red got one more training session in at RFK before Saturday’s season opener against the Dynamo. The team enjoyed some pattern play to get started, then split up into groups for a half-field scrimmage, focusing on defensive shape. The team then worked as a group on shape, free kicks, and finishing.
WITH OR WITHOUT DeRo?
Awaiting MLS’ decision regarding United captain Dwayne De Rosario’s status for Saturday, his teammates and coaches acknowledge the potential loss but reminded everyone that they’ve been there before.
“We’ve done it before,” answered Head Coach Ben Olsen when asked how the team is going to adjust if De Rosario is unavailable. “Nothing’s going to change. We will go about our business in a similar way that we did last year.”
De Rosario missed a seven game stretch last season due to injury, a stretch in which the Black-and-Red went undefeated, going 5-0-2.
When asked if missing their captain will hurt the team, defender Brandon McDonald simply answered, “I mean, he’s De Rosario.” He added, “Everyone has to step their game up a little bit more to come together and get a victory.”
SOPHOMORE SLUMP FOR DeLeon?
After scoring six goals (eight goals in all competitions) in his inaugural campaign, Nick DeLeon set a new rookie single-season scoring record. Finishing the year as the Rookie of the Year runner-up, his teammates do not foresee a sophomore slump from the talented, young midfielder.
“As long as Nicky keeps his head on straight, I don’t think he’s going to have that [a sophomore slump],” said 2012 MLS Best XI selection Chris Pontius. “I think he can put up bigger numbers than he did last year. He’s capable of it, and he has a good group of guys around him that will keep his head on straight, and hopefully he will have a good year.”
Keeping that newly styled head of hair on straight shouldn’t be a problem. The 22-year-old, bleach blond United midfielder sounds as motivated as ever.
“For me personally, I am never content,” DeLeon stated. “There’s always another level you need to reach, and that’s what I’m going for. I’m going to keep pushing myself harder and harder and keep growing. That’s my goal.”
DEFENDING THE DYNAMO
Defending as a unit has been a theme this pre-season and continued to be a focal point today. Gearing up to deal with a dynamic group of attackers, center back McDonald believes if he and fellow center back Dejan Jakovic stick together, they can deal with Houston’s forwards.
“[Will] Bruin is a big boy,” McDonald noted. “He works hard for 90 minutes. It’s one of those things, as I said, Dejan and I, we have to stay on the same page for 90 minutes. Bruin is kind of tricky, but I think if Dejan and I play our cards right, we should be able to handle him.”