- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 29, 2009

At 1-5-6, D.C. United may not have the worst road record in Major League Soccer, but it certainly has leaked the most goals - a whopping 26 in 12 away games. United faces another road trip Saturday. With eight games left, it needs to start picking up points to make the playoffs.

Coach Tom Soehn said the problem has been too many changes in the lineup.

“Now it’s the time of the season that you are going to see some consistency with the lineups,” Soehn said Friday. “We are going to be tougher to play against on the road, and as we grow together, we are going to be focusing on a core of guys to build that consistency.”

The team that held the Los Angeles Galaxy scoreless in a tie at RFK Stadium last week appears to be the core group of players Soehn will use in MLS games going forward. The back line - the most vulnerable area - consists of Bryan Namoff, Dejan Jakovic and Marc Burch.

“We’ve rested guys accordingly for this stretch, and now it’s time to pick up and carry ourselves,” Soehn said.

United (6-5-11, 29 points) visits the high-flying Chicago Fire (10-5-8, 38) on Saturday night. United has slipped to fifth in the Eastern Conference and has not won an MLS game since July 18, going 0-2-2 in that span.

The players said a consistent lineup is the key to winning again.

“We have to stick with a formation,” forward Santino Quaranta said. “We have to stick with some guys, and that’s what we are focusing on - a consistent 11, 12 or 13 guys in a game that can make a difference. … We need one game where everyone is on the same page.”

The Fire have not performed well at home this season but are coming off a come-from-behind, 3-2 win against visiting Colorado on Sunday. Chicago has done better on the road (6-2-4), scoring twice as many goals than at Toyota Park, where they have managed just 11 in 11 games.

A win against United would put the Fire atop the conference. A win for United, along with other favorable results this weekend, could get the team back in the playoff race. The top eight teams in MLS qualify for the postseason.

“We’ve just got to get that one win,” Quaranta said. “It’s so tight now [in the standings], but we have some home games so we are not worried about it. But we do need a win.”

Added midfielder Ben Olsen: “We’ve put ourselves in a position now where every game means the world. We have to go and play inspired soccer like our playoff lives depend on it.”

United beat the Fire twice at Toyota Park last season. Chicago is without leading goal scorer Brian McBride, who is out after shoulder surgery, but Mexican ace Cuauhtemoc Blanco is in fine form. Blanco is tied for second on the team in goals with five and leads in assists with eight, the second-most in the league.

“[Blanco] is a crafty player if he finds an open spot,” Burch said. “If we keep an eye on him and don’t let him cheat, we will be fine.”

Notes -United midfielder Andrew Jacobson will miss the game with an ankle sprain. …

A United official said more than 10,000 tickets have been sold for Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup game against the Seattle Sounders. The team is hoping to draw 15,000 to 20,000.

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