Thirteen times, D.C. United has gone on the road since Sept. 1. Thirteen times it has lost.
And if recent history means anything, loss No. 14 could come Saturday.
United has not beaten Saturday’s opponent, the Chicago Fire, on the road since it moved into Toyota Park. Its last win in Chicago came Aug. 6, 2005, at Soldier Field. Plus, the Fire have been among the top teams in MLS this season.
Chicago (6-2-1, 19 points) has the most potent attack in the Eastern Conference with 19 goals. Its defense has allowed just six goals — six fewer than any other team in the league. And the 35-year-old midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco earned MLS player of the month honors for May.
“The key to their success is Blanco, and we have to shut him down,” United coach Tom Soehn said.
While the odds might be against United, there are some promising signs. United is unbeaten in two games and coming off a 2-2 tie at the New England Revolution.
“That was our best showing on the road in a long time,” defender Bryan Namoff said.
Still, United relinquished a two-goal lead after dominating for an hour against the Revolution.
“It seems like we just turn the lights on and off,” forward Jamie Moreno said. “We need to play for 90 minutes and keep it simple.”
Even in the 16 minutes against visiting Houston on Wednesday before inclement weather postponed the game, United (3-7-1, 10 points) showed an urgency on offense.
“We have a much different team than we were not too long ago in our mentality and the way we approach the game,” Soehn said.
And while Chicago went 3-1-0 in May with three wins on the road, it has slipped up at home this year, losing games to the Kansas City Wizards and the Houston Dynamo.
“It’s all about the work ethic,” midfielder Santino Quaranta said. “If it’s there, we win. The intensity must come from the opening whistle. You can win games in the first 15 minutes.”
Dealing with Blanco, who has four goals and five assists in nine games, won’t be easy, and that job falls on midfielder Clyde Simms’ shoulders.
“He has the freedom to roam for the team and basically goes wherever he wants on the field,” Simms said. “He doesn’t have that defensive responsibility, so when we do attack we always have to keep an eye on where he is.”