D.C. United at Vancouver Whitecaps preview

March 23, 2012
D.C. United at Vancouver Whitecaps

Where: BC Place.

When: 10 p.m.

TV: Comcast SportsNet.

Radio: WDCN (87.7 FM, Spanish).

Records: United 0-2-0; Whitecaps 2-0-0.

D.C. probable starters (4-4-2 formation): GK Joe Willis; Ds Robbie Russell, Brandon McDonald, Emiliano Dudar, Daniel Woolard; MFs Danny Cruz, Marcelo Saragosa, Stephen King, Chris Pontius; Fs Dwayne De Rosario, Maicon Santos.

Vancouver probable starters (4-5-1): GK Joe Cannon; Ds Lee Young Pyo, Martin Bonjour, Jay DeMerit, Alain Rochat; MFs Sebastien LeToux, Matt Watson, Jun Marques Davidson, Davide Chiumiento, Camilo Sanvezzo; F Eric Hassli.

Outlook: A season of heightened expectation has been a disappointment through two matches as United managed just two shots on target and one goal, which came 177 minutes into the campaign. The slow start extended United’s rut since mid-September to 1-8-2. The club has surrendered 13 goals in five consecutive away losses. Three starters are away on Olympic qualifying duty — U.S. GK Bill Hamid and MF Perry Kitchen, as well as Honduras MF Andy Najar — and the status of high-priced MF Branko Boskovic and F Hamdi Salihi remains unclear after they were benched last week for a 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy. Cruz is a likely replacement for Najar, who joined the Honduras squad after the Galaxy match. Nick DeLeon, an MLS first-round draft pick who scored a superb goal in his debut last weekend, also is an option. “DeLeon showed us he’s ready to be a professional,” Coach Ben Olsen said.

D Dejan Jakovic, who departed at halftime against Los Angeles with a groin strain, is out and has yielded to Argentine newcomer Dudar. Reserve MF Lance Rozeboom, a rookie, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and will miss several months.

While United began the season against two MLS Cup favorites (the Galaxy and Sporting Kansas City), the second-year Whitecaps defeated two of the weaker links, the expansion Montreal Impact and Chivas USA. Cannon departed last week’s 1-0 victory at Chivas with a strained thigh. If he isn’t ready, Brad Knighton (14 career starts) will fill the void. Vancouver, the third-poorest defensive squad last year, hasn’t conceded a goal this season. In the 2011 meetings, United routed the Whitecaps at RFK Stadium, 4-0, but in a critical late-season match, dropped a 2-1 decision at BC Place. Vancouver F Darren Mattocks, the second overall pick in the MLS draft, is out after burning his shoulder in a cooking accident.

— Steven Goff

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