- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2007

With a three-game unbeaten streak, D.C. United appears to have turned a corner as it prepares for Saturday night’s home game against the Houston Dynamo, Major League Soccer’s defending champions. United (2-3-1, seven points) began the season with a stunning three-game losing streak but has won its last two games to escape the Eastern Division basement.

“It gives us the confidence that we are a winning team again,” United midfielder Ben Olsen said. “We still haven’t put that complete game together, which we want. There’s a lot of room for improvement, but we are learning to win again.”

United earned its first road win last week against expansion club Toronto FC after playing an impressive second half. Suddenly, United looked like its old self, as the team dominated possession and began stringing passes together — the team’s trademark in past seasons.

United coach Tom Soehn took the risk of replacing a defender with a striker in the second half against Toronto, and the strategy paid off. Luciano Emilio won a penalty kick, and Jaime Moreno converted to score his third goal of the season.

“Winning breeds confidence, but it’s very easy to get complacent,” Soehn said. “Toronto was playing its third game in a week and began to tire later in the game.”

The real test for United begins Saturday as the club faces a string of three tough games in the next two weeks against Houston, the Los Angeles Galaxy and the New York Red Bulls. Houston (2-4-1, seven points) is particularly hungry after losing its last two matches.

“It will be interesting to see how we do against Houston, a strong team that is seasoned but struggling,” Olsen said. “They will be coming at us because they need a win real bad. It will be a big test.”

Notes —United forward Jamil Walker will have surgery today on a torn Achilles tendon that will keep him out of action for a year. It’s possible that rookie Bryan Arguez, listed as a developmental player, will take over Walker’s senior spot on the roster. …

United will play CD Guadalajara of Mexico in the round-of-16 stage of the Sudamericana tournament. It will be the teams’ second meeting this year in a tournament. Guadalajara defeated United 3-2 on aggregate in the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup last month. The two-game series will begin at RFK the week of Sept. 11. United will travel to Mexico for the return game in early October. …

United is raising funds to help displaced merchants and their families who were affected by the April 30 fire at Eastern Market. Of every ticket sold for Saturday’s game, $3 will go to the Capitol Hill Community Foundation. The club also will conduct a Red Cross blood drive from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in the RFK media room.

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