D.C. United’s long-awaited ownership deal is finalized, with previous sole investor Will Chang joined by new partners Erick Thohir and Jason Levien (see my story, column and blog post). Now, for this weekend at least, it’s time to return focus to the field for United’s second trip of the season to face the Houston Dynamo (Sunday, 9 p.m., Comcast SportsNet and Galavision).
United (10-5-3) in May were the opponent for Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium opener, falling 1-0 on a Brad Davis strike. The match came two weeks after D.C. pulled out a thrilling 3-2 triumph at RFK Stadium thanks to two goals from Maicon Santos and one from Dwayne De Rosario.
The playmaking contributions of De Rosario, fresh off a trip to Los Angeles for Wednesday’s ESPY Awards (he lost in the MLS category to Los Angeles midfielder David Beckham), is the focus of my print-edition story in Friday’s paper.
The Dynamo (6-5-7) last season won the Eastern Conference crown thanks to defensive discipline instilled by coach Dominic Kinnear and the lethal set piece service of MVP runner-up Davis. That much we can still expect.
But Houston in recent weeks has strayed from its traditional 4-4-2 alignment in favor of a 4-3-3 that better complements the skill set of newly acquired Honduran winger Oscar Boniek Garcia.
“They’ve changed things up with their formation,” coach Ben Olsen said. “I’m not sure whether there’ll stick with that or not. They have an addition now, a new player that’s a handful. But ultimately they still have the same mentality as the Houston teams have had. They fight very hard, they’re great on set pieces and they’re a committed group. So they’re always a tough challenge, and it makes it even tougher going away against them.”
Added midfielder Danny Cruz, a former Houston player: “I expect the same Houston. They don’t change much. Hard-working team, a lot of set pieces, I would imagine, and just a lot of fight at home.”
Another player to keep an eye on is United killer Will Bruin, who notched a hat trick against D.C. last year and a brace at RFK this season. Two weeks ago, I did an interview over at Soccer By Ives with Bruin, a second-year striker who has emerged as a breakout star with nine goals this season.
Here is my prediction at the starting 11 Olsen will roll out Sunday:
Hamid; Russell, McDonald, Jakovic, Woolard; Cruz, Kitchen, Boskovic, Pontius; De Rosario, Santos
With United healthy, rested and coming off a 3-0 win over Montreal in their last match two weeks ago, Olsen will see no need to make major changes. The only tweak to the lineup I see is Cruz stepping in for Andy Najar, who is off with the Honduras Olympic squad preparing for the London Games.