- The Washington Times - Friday, April 17, 2009

One win in four games. Two frustrating ties and a road loss. Just five points out of a possible dozen. A new stadium plan dead on arrival.

This is not the way D.C. United wanted to start the season.

But there are hopeful signs. Luciano Emilio, United’s Brazilian striker, is on a scoring streak and developing an attacking partnership with rookie forward Chris Pontius. And the New England Revolution, a team United has fared well against in recent years at RFK Stadium, visits Friday night for a rare nationally televised game - without United nemesis Taylor Twellman.

Emilio, who has scored in three straight games, said he is a stronger player this year.

“Last season, whenever someone would pressure me or tackle me, I would either fall down or be out of the play,” Emilio said. “This season, when someone comes to tackle me, I can still maintain possession and keep in the play.”

United coach Tom Soehn said he is pleased with the progress of his striker, who was the league MVP in 2007 with 20 goals but scored just 11 last year.

“He came in at the start of this year to prove that he’s still one of the better forwards in the league,” Soehn said. “He told me that winning a championship was the first thing on his list he wanted to achieve. He came in with the right mentality.”

Emilio has worked well with Pontius, a 2009 draft pick who has started all of United’s games and assisted on Emilio’s goal in a 2-1 loss at Real Salt Lake last week.

Soehn is calling on his players to provide Emilio more service. United (1-1-2) has led in all four games but has only one win to show for it.

“In the flow of the game, we have got to do a better job of getting balls in the box,” Soehn said. “That’s where Luciano loves to make a living.”

New England is 0-2-1 in its last three regular-season visits to RFK and hasn’t won in the regular season there since a 1-0 victory Oct. 7, 2006.

“We want to keep it that way,” defender Bryan Namoff said.

United is 16-6-3 at RFK against New England, and a win Friday could send United near the top of the standings. The Revolution (2-0-1, seven points) are one of three unbeaten teams left.

United goes into the game healthy; the Revolution have eight players on their injury list, including Twellman, who has punished United more than any player in the league. The former Maryland ace, who has notched 15 goals in 22 games against United, is sidelined with a neck injury.

United’s back line likely will have to deal with the speedy threesome of Kheli Dube, Kenny Mansally and Sainey Nyassi, each of whom has a goal this season.

Note - National champion Maryland will play Wake Forest in an exhibition at 4 p.m. Friday at RFK Stadium. Student groups and organizations may purchase advance tickets for $15 by noon. Students who present their IDs at the gate can get in for $18.

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