DC return home to RFK Stadium on Saturday (May 25th, at 7pm) to take on a Portland Timbers side whom are unbeaten in their last 10 matches. The Timbers have put forth a stingy defense this season which has troubled nearly every opponent and surely to ask many questions out of DC's back line. While Portland rides an impressive unbeaten streak, DC also have one of their own, a one match unbeaten run. Well, that's a bit too optimistic but we're tying to shed just a little light on a rocky MLS season for the nations capital.
Who is going to step up for United and prove to be the true leader? Dwayne De Rosario is the captain of DC; however, on the field he has gone missing and his irregularity of play this season has contributed to some of DC's lack of offensive output. De Ro must create space for himself and demand the ball from his midfielders in order to orchestrate a successful attack. As De Rosario and Chris Pontius can hopefully retain some sort of cohesive pressure on the back line of Portland – Lionard Pajoy or Rafael may be able to squeak through and produce a moment of magic of their own. Although that moment of magic would be highly welcomed to Olsen's Army, attendance is quickly diminishing at RFK because of the upsetting MLS season thus far – so a change in tempo should be in order.
Once again, good performances are easier spoken and written about than actually happening. For Ben Olsen and DC United, they currently are the cellar dwellers in the Eastern Conference and after retaining only a handful of points in over ten matches thus far, one can only hope that it is only up from here. It certainly helps the morale that Nick DeLeon and his ever-changing hair is back in the lineup, a solid 90 minute performance is going to need to come from both he and Kyle Porter in order to put pressure on solid defensive play from Portland. DeLeon played a more centralized role in DC's last match which often times took away space from both himself and De Ro's room to work which may force Olsen to once again put the youngster out wide in order to hope crosses are sent into the box.
With numerous line changes, and injection of youth into the squad, Ben Olsen just cannot catch a break. Against Portland, I'd like to see Chris Pontius feature up top as the sole striker as his movement in the second half against Sporting KC was wonderful which led up to their crucial goal. Furthermore, Pontius seems the most willing to dart into the box and creates plenty of scoring changes albeit sometimes from distance. Instead of featuring De Rosario farthest up the pitch, he should feature as the secondary striker behind Pontius, with DeLeon, Porter, Augusto, and Perry Kitchen rounding out the midfield. Getting back to a 4-4-2 formation could be pivotal as in recent matches DC have thoroughly struggled with using Pajoy as the sole striker – so why not try something different?
All of the aforementioned tactics and game plan is all well and good; however, Caleb Porter and Portland will come into Washington DC with loads of confidence as they currently carry the MLS's longest unbeaten streak. Defender Jack Jewsbury told Oregon Live "It's just one of those things where there's a belief in that locker room that when we step on that field, we expect to win. When we step on that field and go across those lines, we're a bit disappointed when we don't come out of the game with three points." Jewsbury speaks from somewhere deep down within his soccer heart – his will to win, and the immense pride that he and his entire squad possess which has allowed them to thrive in the 2012/13 MLS season so far.
Will Johnson and Perry Kitchen will line up toe to toe in a crucial midfield battle on Saturday. Kitchen must remain calm at all points within the match as he will have Augusto beside him; however Johnson will once again look to carve up the DC United midfield and defense as he has done to other clubs this season. After only scoring a grand total of 24 goals in 2012, Portland already have an impressive 19 this season in which certainly adds to their ever growing confidence. Portland currently sit in third place in the Western Conference (4-7-1, 19 points) and only five points adrift from first placed FC Dallas.
The question remains whether or not DC can regain any type of composure during the match on Saturday in order to pick up three points at home. Although the fortress that was RFK Stadium last season seems to be playing no real advantage to the Black and Red's this season – at any moments notice that could all change, as Olsen's 2011/12 squad proved late in last seasons playoff push.
(image courtesy of Getty Images)