The three most-asked D.C. United questions of late:
1. Will the club get a new stadium before RFK turns 100?
2. DeRo is out for how long?
3. Whatever happened to that Albanian striker?
You already know the answer to the first two inquiries (“no” and “rest of the season”), and with this story that also appears in Thursday’s print editions, I try to shed some light on Hamdi Salihi’s underwhelming season and uncertain status.
*While United was settling in Philadelphia ahead of Thursday night’s match against the Union at PPL Park (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2), the Columbus Crew regained fifth place — and the last playoff berth in the Eastern Conference — with another compelling finish. This time, Justin Meram scored in the 89th minute (video) to secure a 1-0 victory over Chivas USA.
Meantime, in front of just 10,000+ at Red Bull Arena, Sporting Kansas City scored two early goals to defeat New York, 2-0, and strengthen its hold on first place in the East. The latest standings:
Sporting Kansas City 54 points from 29 matches
Chicago Fire 50 points from 28
New York Red Bulls 49 points from 29
Houston Dynamo 46 points from 29
Columbus Crew 45 points from 29
D.C. United 44 points from 28
So by winning in Philadelphia, United would leap past both Columbus and Houston and draw within two points of New York. Easier said than done, despite the Union’s poor record. United hasn’t won on the road since a 1-0 decision at Philadelphia in late June, and in that match, “we got our asses kicked and ended up stealing a win from them,” defender Dejan Jakovic said. “It’s definitely going to be a big challenge for us.”
Addressing the chaotic late effort against New England over the weekend, Jakovic said: “A lot of the games, I just feel like we want to attack. We just want to create chances out of every play, where at times when we have the lead, that is the time to keep the ball and move it from side to side.”
*Getting back to the frontline, Dwayne De Rosario’s absence has opened a slot for one or two players to make a lasting impression. Ben Olsen received modest production from Maicon Santos and Lionard Pajoy against the Revolution.
“The challenge is finding the relationship,” assistant coach Chad Ashton said of the forward options. “It always takes some time. They have seen each other for a long time, but none of them have spent a lot of time together. They know, in theory, what it is they want to do, but doing it and doing it well is quite a different thing. We have to find that pairing that works best together. It will probably be a bunch of combinations. We’ll have to mix and match as these games go.”
When De Rosario was in the mix, “all of the other guys are typically fighting for one spot,” Ashton said. “Now they are fighting for two spots. It changes their mentality because there is another open slot to get on the field. They need to embrace that, go out and prove themselves. I think they are all going to get their chance in this stretch run. Who does what with the minutes they are given [will decide] who is going to get more minutes.”