Seeking a morale victory

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Seemingly unable to win on the road this season, D.C. United has had no such problems at RFK Stadium, where it is unbeaten. Fortunately for United, it has nine regular-season MLS games left - with six of them at RFK.

But that’s not the whole story. Life for United is complicated by six games in other competitions in the next two months and players who are low on confidence.

“For me, this is rock bottom,” defender Avery John said. “The couple of games we lost and tied is unacceptable right now. We need to put things together and get organized.”

United’s fortitude will be tested Saturday night when the red-hot Los Angeles Galaxy (8-4-10, 34 points) arrive with David Beckham back in the lineup and Landon Donovan in peak form.

“Everybody’s angry, but hopefully that anger can be transferred to the field,” striker Jaime Moreno said. “We need to show more character. … I don’t panic, because I do know we have the potential on this team.”

United (6-5-10, 28 points) needs three points from a morale-boosting result. The team has one victory - in a shootout at L.A. Firpo in El Salvador - in its past seven games in all competitions. More importantly, United has won only one of its past seven MLS games, slipping from the top of the Eastern Conference to fourth place and on the outside of the playoff picture.

The Galaxy have lost just once in their past eight MLS games a year after they failed to make the playoffs and allowed a league-high 62 goals. Former United coach Bruce Arena fixed Los Angeles’ defensive problems by bringing in a new goalie, Donovan Ricketts, and strengthening its back line. The Galaxy have allowed the fourth-fewest goals and are coming off an impressive 2-0 victory Wednesday at Chicago without Beckham, who was suspended.

“It’s a must-win game, but at the same time we can’t get too desperate, because if we do, the game will get out of hand,” Moreno said.

This game could get physical. United coach Tom Soehn criticized his players for committing only six fouls and “not fighting enough” in a 2-0 loss at Toronto FC last week.

“I never looked to a coach to provide me with any inspiration,” said assistant coach Mark Simpson, a former United goalie. “I dug within myself to get ready mentally and physically prepared for games. If you need someone to light a fire behind you to play professional soccer, then it’s probably not a business you need to be in.”

Team officials said more than 20,000 tickets have been sold for the game.

“The Beckham situation is over; it’s L.A.,” Moreno said. “Donovan is having a great season, and that’s a guy you do have to take care of.”

Donovan, whose 10 goals are tied for second-most in the league, said his team is approaching the game with care.

“In this league, oftentimes when teams aren’t playing well and they get a home game, they can turn things around,” he said. “So we’ve got to be cautious, but we’re also very confident in the way we’re playing right now, and we think we can go anywhere and beat everyone.”

Note - United will have striker Chris Pontius back after he missed two games with a quadriceps injury. Pontius scored in United’s 2-2, season-opening draw in March at Los Angeles.

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