DC vs Chivas USA - 2011

VW Keys to the Match: D.C. United vs Chivas USA

With each result, D.C. United must prepare for a more important game. That is especially the case in this year's tight Eastern Conference playoff race and given the fact that the Black-and-red will have only a single home game remaining after Sunday's fixture (7:00 p.m. ET, CSN, Galavision). Here is what to watch for on Sunday:

Keep your foot on the gas

At times over the past several seasons, D.C. United has faced an inferior opponent at RFK Stadium, late in the campaign, with much on the line, and not come away with full points (see Chivas USA, Portland - 2011, San Jose, TFC - 2010, San Jose, Chivas USA - 2009, FC Dallas, Chivas USA - 2008). These lapses were central to missing out on the playoffs in those years and avoiding such a let-down will go a long way towards ending that unwanted string of shortfalls in 2012. Entering the game with the right mentality will determine if this is to happen again Sunday. Given that Ben Olsen's men have been dominant at home this season (10-1-4) and have rallied for two straight wins since Dwayne De Rosario's season-ending injury, there's little reason to doubt the club's ability to put in the work needed to wrestle the full three points from their Western Conference foes on Sunday.

Get the first goal

D.C. United boasts a gaudy 11-2-0 record this season when scoring first. As the Black-and-Red approach a road-weary, low-scoring Chivas USA side Saturday night, opening the scoring could pave the way to victory. The Goats enter Sunday's game an abysmal 1-12-2 when allowing their opponents to score first and their meager 21 total goals this season should give them little hope that they might overcome such adversity Sunday.

Ride the wave

Given that Chris Pontius is wrapping up a career year with the Black-and-Red (11 goals and four assists to date), it is easy to see why the club has looked to the Southern California native for increased output in the absence of captain Dwayne De Rosario. He has responded to the challenge, playing a role in both goals a week ago in a victory over New England (one goal, one assist) and assisted the only goal scored in United's key win at Philadelphia on Thursday. Pontius began heating up in late summer, scoring two goals and assisted on three others since August 4. Getting his name on the scoresheet again Sunday will factor in the end result.

Buy tickets and join Olsen's Army at RFK Stadium on Sunday.