One of D.C. United’s biggest weaknesses this season will be put to the test tonight.
Mired in a five-game losing streak and sitting at the bottom of the MLS standings with a 1-6-1 record, United welcomes the Houston Dynamo to RFK Stadium for a mid-week clash.
Set pieces have been a point of emphasis for United during its 10-day break, with the club having conceded seven goals off dead-ball situations so far — an area of strength for Houston.
“If you do that, you’re going to find yourself in last place,” United coach Ben Olsen said.
Houston, which beat defending MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy in a title game rematch Sunday night, has become synonymous with set-piece success in recent seasons.
Veteran winger Brad Davis’ top-class services consistently find the club’s top scorers and big center backs.
“We’ve been working on [defending set plays] a lot,” United midfielder Perry Kitchen said. “It’s a man-to-man situation. … It’s just a matter of sniffing the ball out, knowing where the danger is at, and it’s just something we have to be better at.”
Despite the recent run of defeats, United is maintaining a positive outlook ahead of a brutal stretch that continues with games against FC Dallas, Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers, who have a combined 14-5-9 record.
“I think they believe in each other,” Olsen said of the team. “I certainly believe in them, but it’s about [Wednesday]. It’s another chance for us to show that we’re a better team than we’ve shown, a better team than our record shows. And I think we are.”
D.C. United will welcome starting wingers Nick DeLeon and Chris Pontius back from injury this week. DeLeon is slated for a place on today’s 18-man game roster after missing more than six weeks with a hamstring injury. Pontius may require a few more days before he returns from his groin injury, but he said he would “definitely” play a role in Saturday’s match in Dallas.