DC United dropped two points after being ahead at the break for the second straight game. Although draws to the Red Bulls and Dynamo might feel like losses, they are good results that put United in a good place to start the season.After six games, United find themselves tied with the Red Bulls and Revolution atop the Eastern Conference with 11 points. At times, United haven’t played the most convincing soccer, but the play has steadily improved from the beginning of the season. By conceding a late equalizer to the Dynamo, United gave up their first goal to a team that isn’t named after an energy drink. On top of that, United extended their unbeaten record at home to 15 straight games dating back to last year.
United looked much better in possession against the Dynamo and the Red Bulls, but are still struggling to score. Against the Red Bulls, Perry Kitchen scored off of a corner kick, and again from outside the box. Last weekend, Chris Rolfe grabbed United’s loan goal with a scorching free kick past Tyler Deric.
In order to stay close to the top of the Eastern Conference, United must start to create more opportunities and be more clinical from open play. The return of Fabian Espindola from suspension, and the gradual reintegration of Luis Silva into the lineup should greatly increase United’s creativity, chemistry, and finishing. The two combined for 22 goals last season for DC United.
On Saturday, United take their first trip of the season to the West Coast to face the Vancouver WhiteCaps. Vancouver look like one of the best teams in MLS this year, and United will face a tough test far from home. It is unclear if Espindola will jump directly into the starting lineup, or be an impact sub off of the bench. Either way, the moment he touches the pitch United become a much, much better team. Luis Silva is not 90 minutes fit just yet, but may still start anyway and be taken off in the second half. Regardless, it looks likely that Jairo Arrieta will be dropped from the starting lineup, in favor of a different option up top.
In other roster news, Steve Goff is reporting that Markus Halsti is back in training for United, and is working his way back to fitness. His return could not be better timed, as United will need to rotate some midfield players due to long travel and double game week fixtures in the coming weeks. Bill Hamid, who sat against Houston with a thigh contusion, is a doubt for Saturday as well. In his place, Andrew Dykstra would get his second start in a row following a disastrous preseason performance against Alajuelense in the Champions League.
Dykstra looked comfortable against Houston, and did a good job of picking himself up and showing that he is much better than the unprepared keeper that was victimized in Costa Rica. He will need another good performance against Vancouver for United to get a result.
(image courtesy of Stephen M. Dowell-Orlando Sentinel via AP)