Talk about jumping into the frying pan.
D.C. United opens its season Sunday against the Los Angeles Galaxy at Home Depot Center, the scene of United’s worst defeat last year. The Galaxy routed United 5-2 in September behind a hat trick from forward Landon Donovan.
“When a team scores that many goals against you, you always want to get a little redemption,” United defender Bryan Namoff said.
Sunday’s match pits two of the most successful clubs in MLS history, but they are coming off disappointing seasons. Both teams leaked goals last year and failed to reach the playoffs.
United defender Marc Burch, who was red-carded in last season’s blowout, is hoping to make amends for his performance against Los Angeles. Burch was ejected in the 63rd minute after a challenge on Galaxy midfielder David Beckham near the touchline.
“It was embarrassing,” Burch said. “I got a tough red card, and we allowed Landon to take hold of us. I think we can control them this year.”
Beckham’s loan deal to AC Milan dominated the Galaxy’s offseason. The former England captain will remain with the Italian club until July, then play the rest of the MLS season with the Galaxy. And while there will be no Beckham to deal with Sunday, Donovan is back from his loan period with German giant Bayern Munich.
“Landon will be coming in with a lot of confidence after doing well in Munich,” United midfielder Clyde Simms said. “He relies on a lot of service from the flanks, so we will need to watch that.”
United’s retooled defense, which will likely see new signing Dejan Jakovic in the center, will have to keep a close eye on arguably America’s best player. Donovan is match fit and called himself a better player after his time with Munich. He led the MLS with 20 goals last season.
“We have to control Landon Donovan because he is the engine of that team,” Namoff said. “If we can stop him from getting in his groove, I think it will be advantageous for us. The game won’t look pretty in that first 15 minutes, and we mustn’t implode.”
The Galaxy have gone through an overhaul under former United coach Bruce Arena, who arrived at the club late in 2008.unite
“Bruce always has his teams well-organized,” United coach Tom Soehn said. “We know what to expect. His team will try and force us to make mistakes by pressuring us.”
United will be without key flank players Fred and Santino Quaranta; both suffered hamstring injuries in preseason play at the Carolina Challenge Cup earlier this month. Thabiso Khumalo and Devon McTavish could be their replacements.
The Galaxy are also struggling with injuries. Striker Edson Buddle (quad strain) and potential starting goalie Donovan Ricketts (hamstring) are listed as doubtful. If Ricketts is out, United’s probable strike-team of Jaime Moreno and Luciano Emilio should test backup keeper Josh Saunders, who made only three starts last year.
Moreno could make a little history if he gets a chance. The veteran, who has 122 career goals, is one assist shy of becoming the league’s first 100-100 player.
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