D.C. United hosts the Portland Timbers on Saturday, May 25 (7p.m. ET; Comcast SportsNet/Univision Deportes Network). Portland comes into RFK sitting 3rd in the Western Conference (4-1-7) while United is still trying to hit its stride in 2013 (1-8-2). Both teams, though, enter this match coming off a tie.
Portland took on Vancouver Whitecaps FC last Saturday and played to a 2-2 draw. Saturday marked the Timber’s 7th tie of the season, extending its unbeaten streak to 10 matches. Both Will Johnson and Jose Valencia tallied for Portland, with Valencia’s goal tying the game in the 84th minute. Portland has excelled in possession under new Head Coach Caleb Porter. The Timber’s possession percentage has hovered around 60% and passing accuracy around 80% each match this season.
“I think they’re not offensively as aggressive as Sporting Kansas City,” said D.C. United midfielder Chris Pontius. “But in possession, Portland is a fantastic team. So, we have to get their playmakers off the ball.”
United, despite struggling to get into a rhythm initially, tied Sporting Kansas City last Sunday at RFK 1-1. Rookie Kyle Porter notched his first MLS goal off a cross from recently healthy Chris Pontius. The Black-and-Red seemed to begin to ebb and flow á la 2012.
Saturday’s match was the first time Pontius, Dwayne De Rosario and Nick DeLeon were all on the field together since March 23. While DeLeon and De Rosario played 90 minutes, Pontius played 45, and admits that he struggled a little bit physically his first game back.
“You’re just trying to play catch up to the game,” said Pontius when asked how he felt coming off the bench. “Everyone else is up to the speed of the game. I think you’re trying to do a bit more than you would normally do. I got winded quickly."
But this week, the talented midfielder put in a full week of training for the first time since his injury on April 25 and is confident he will get his sharpness and lungs back. On a similarly positive note, DeLeon played a full 90 minutes for the first time since March 16. United Head Coach Ben Olsen is just excited to see all of his stars on the field together and believes this could be a turning point for DCU.
“I look forward to [Nick DeLeon] being on the field consistently for us,” said Olsen. “I look forward to Chris Pontius getting back, and JT [John Thorrington] is coming along slowly. All this stuff is going to help. I like the spirit—our group is gutsy.”