Following successive wins against New England and Philadelphia, D.C. United has significantly improved its post-season outlook as the team turns its attention to visiting Chivas USA. The Sunday evening match will be the Black-and-Red’s third in seven days, but comes against the least potent offense in all of MLS.
Most recently, Chivas USA lost to Columbus 1-0 on Wednesday evening at Crew Stadium. It was the 11th time this season – in 28 matches – that Chivas had been kept off the scoreboard. The team’s 21 total goals this season is the same number scored by San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski in 2012. Additionally, Chivas’ -23 goal differential is the worst in MLS.
In other words, D.C. United – a team that has not lost at RFK since March 10 and is currently riding a club record 14-match home unbeaten streak (10-0-4) – faces a prime opportunity to further improve its chances to qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Without the services of Dwayne De Rosario – who suffered a season-ending MCL sprain on September 11 – the team has turned to 25-year old Chris Pontius, who recently signed a contract extension with the Black-and-Red. Days after learning of DeRo’s status, the club’s longest tenured player was handed the captain’s armband and responded in kind, collecting a goal and an assist in the 2-1 win over New England last Saturday, before setting-up Lionard Pajoy’s game-winner in Philadelphia on Thursday.
“It’s a dangerous opponent, especially when a team like Chivas doesn’t have a whole lot to lose, they become very dangerous,” Pontius told reporters after Thursday’s 1-0 win. “I think people are playing for their jobs there.”
Indeed, Chivas USA has been out of contention for several weeks and second-year Head Coach Robin Fraser has his work cut out for him in continuing to remake a Chivas USA squad that sits in last place in the West. To add to Fraser’s challenge on Sunday night, the team will be without regular starters James Riley (red card vs. Columbus) and Oswaldo Minda (yellow card accumulation), both of whom are serving one-game suspensions.
Two of the more influential – and dangerous – players on Chivas USA’s roster will be familiar to supporters of the Black-and-Red. Talented forward Juan Agudelo was acquired from New York in May and has been a relatively consistent starter since, while long-time Revolution midfielder Shalrie Joseph was acquired in August for youngster Blair Gavin. Both players are capable of scoring the big goal, and will need to be watched carefully by United should the home team hope to come out with full points.
The Sunday evening clash will be only meeting between the two teams this season, and will also serve as D.C.’s second-to-last regular season match of 2012. With the difference between playoff teams and non-playoff teams likely to be only a few points in the East, this match-up may prove to be the difference-maker in United’s post-season aspirations.
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