Is the third time a charm? D.C. United certainly hopes so.
After a lackluster opening to its season - a 3-0 drubbing at RFK at the hands of the Columbus Crew and a 1-0 loss in Toronto - D.C. United returns home on Saturday to face the Chicago Fire (4:00 p.m., NBC Sports Network), searching for its first win - and first goal - of 2014. For United head coach Ben Olsen, Saturday afternoon can't come soon enough.
"We need a win this weekend," Olsen told MLSsoccer.com after a brisk training session on Wednesday morning. "It’s a winnable game, certainly, being at home, and we’re looking forward to it. We’ve seen them a little bit already in pre-season, we watched them last weekend as well."
United does indeed need a win. The loss to Toronto stretched its winless streak in league games - which dates back to August of 2013 - to 14, a club record. Though Chicago hasn't been overwhelming in either of their two opening matches, they've also managed to grind out a pair of draws - and Olsen has been impressed by what he's seen.
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"They interchange very well," Olsen said. "Magee is obviously a handful, he finds great spots. They’ve got some young guys out wide that think differently - I thought the [Harrison] Shipp kid has been good so far. Their defense obviously knows what they’re doing as well."
"I think they have good pace, Magee is obviously a threat up top, but I do also think we match up well," added United left back Cristian Fernandez in a Spanish-language interview. "They have speed on the flanks, which is something I've noticed about many teams in this league. But we do as well, and we have speed out of our back line as well. I'm excited for the match."
United would do well to use that pace. Chicago will enter the game without the services of both of their starting outside backs - Lovel Palmer will be serving the tail end of a two-game suspension and Gonzalo Segares continues to struggle with ankle and knee injuries. If D.C. can finally find a rhythm, getting numbers forward and finding that missing link between its midfielders and attacking corps, they'll likely afford themselves a chance to snap what's become the fifth longest winless streak in league history.
"It’s just that," Olsen reiterated. "The rhythm and partnerships have to get better, our commitment in the box, set pieces, all of these things just have to be elevated. It's not gonna be easy."