DC United Returns from Two Week Hiatus

It feels like it’s been months since DC United beat the Montreal Impact 1-0 in their MLS home opener. Their subsequent break from MLS play was intended to give them the rest necessary to compete in the Concacaf Champions League semifinals, for which they failed to qualify. DC United fans, myself included, are itching to get back into the action and put the failure of the Champions League in the rear-view mirror.
However, watching the Montreal Impact take a 2-0 lead into Costa Rica, many United fans can’t help but rue a missed opportunity. Club America is down 3-0 on aggregate to Herediano, and The Impact made Alajuelense look a very beatable side, not nearly the team that thrashed us 5-2 in Costa Rica.

I’ll admit a little bit of jealousy watching Montreal perform so well in front of the packed audiences that they’ve drawn for their CONCACAF matches. However, the reality is that I think they were much more prepared for the knockout rounds than DC. Montreal spent a few weeks of preseason down in Mexico acclimatizing themselves and playing friendlies against Mexican competition. In contrast, DC United beat the Austin Aztecs and FC Dallas to win the ATX Pro Challenge (I don’t mind the Armadillo, though). Sadly, I think that kind of preparation was outside of the resources that the club is willing to spend while on a shoestring budget. It was not for lack of desire, but we simply won’t be dropping serious investments until the team moves into its new home at Buzzard Point. That day can’t come soon enough. Anyway, we didn’t put in the performance that we needed, and its time to focus on beating the Red Bulls this Sunday.

The Atlantic Cup is always a big game for the players and the fans, and this one already has a big feel to it, despite being only the second game of the season for both clubs. United is still without DP talisman Fabian Espindola, who is on his second of a six game suspension. The team is also without Finnish midfielder Markus Halsti, and goal threat Luis Silva. If there’s any silver lining to be taken from our two-week break, it’s trying to get these important pieces back from injury and ready to rejoin the squad. Reports indicate that Taylor Kemp is back in contention to play on Sunday, but whether he is match fit remains to be seen. If he is not ready to go, Chris Korb should return to the left back position. Everywhere else, United will remain exactly the same as how they lined up against Montreal in the home opener. Jairo Arrieta has looked dangerous in his last few games, scoring goals against Montreal and Alajuelense, his sharpness could be key to breaking down a Red Bulls backline that is also sporting several injuries and new additions.

I am traveling to Harrison for the match, so keep an eye out for updates on the trip as I’m sure to be agonizingly bored on the bus ride.

The biggest DC related news from the last two weeks is the confirmation that Eddie Johnson is in serious jeopardy of retiring from the game due to a serious heart condition. The exact details remain unknown, but as I guessed in my season preview, I wouldn’t count on him returning to the lineup this season. Obviously, we all wish Eddie the best and his health is far more important than anything soccer-related.

There are however, several issues that will have to be dealt with regarding Eddie’s situation. Eddie Johnson is DC’s highest paid player and, should he be forced to retire, it is unclear what will happen with his salary and his contract status. For a club that operates on a shoestring budget, taking the hit on Eddie’s salary would not be good. In a recent Washington Post article, Steve Goff hinted that the situation could get “messy” and that lawyers are likely to be involved. It remains unclear if the league, DC United, or Eddie’s previous clubs were aware of his alleged heart condition. As the season goes on, I’m sure more details of this unfortunate situation will come to light.

(image courtesy of Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)