Preview: D.C. United at Columbus Crew

D.C. United is heading to Columbus to take on the Crew on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET; Romantica 900AM / MLS Direct Kick Package). The Black-and-Red, coming off a 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Union at RFK last Sunday, is looking to earn three points this weekend—something the team hasn’t accomplished since March 9. 
United battled hard on Sunday after going down by two goals early in the first half. Twenty-one-year-old midfielder Perry Kitchen scored his first goal of 2013—his second MLS career goal—to break the Black-and-Red scoring drought of almost a month. After Jack McInerney tallied for the second time, Lionard Pajoy found the net for his second goal of the season. The comeback proved too little too late for D.C., ultimately falling 3-2. 
“[We can’t] have two guys with concentration lapses [or] set piece deficiencies,” said Head Coach Ben Olsen. “These things add up and can spiral, but there’s 81 points out there—that’s a lot. It’s important to remind ourselves of that and that there’s a lot to play for still in this season.”
Both teams will be coming into tonight’s game after losing to a regional rival. The Crew fell to the Chicago Fire 1-0. From the look of the stat sheet, the Crew was lucky the Fire only netted one goal. The Fire had 21 shots to the Crew’s six. Columbus did not shoot on frame once the entire game, while Chicago shot on target seven times. The Fire earned 10 corner kicks, while the Crew earned none. Columbus goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum made six saves to keep the Crew in the game—ultimately letting in a goal from the Fire’s Jeff Larentowicz in the 83rd minute.
With United having just scored two goals, and the Crew struggling to find the net, the Black-and-Red aimsto keep the all-time scoreline tipped its way. Since 1996, United has scored 99 goals against the Crew in both MLS regular season and playoff games, while Columbus has netted 90 against United. 
“I have faith in the talent level of this crew, even with a couple of injuries,” said Olsen. “I have faith in them that they have the mentality to win games as well... It’s up to them to have 11+ guys show up and do the job and have good enough games to get results.” 
This tight-knit group looks to build upon its offensive success from last week and turn it into three points this week. But, United will have to face the Crew without 2012 MLS All-Star MVP Chris Pontius due to a pulled groin. 
“It becomes an opportunity for another guy to step in and show us that he is a guy that we can rely on,” remarked Olsen, finding the positive in a tough situation. 
With wingers Pontius and Nick DeLeon out with injuries, Marcos Sanchez and Kyle Porter are playing longer minutes and settling into D.C. United’s style of play. Another Black-and-Red player hoping to make the best of this opportunity is rookie Taylor Kemp – a Richmond Kickers loanee – who will travel to Columbus for his first MLS regular-season game. 
“I’ve played [Taylor] there before,” recalled Olsen. “I think he is capable of filling in that spot if we need him.”