- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 18, 2009

It has been a full two weeks since D.C. United last played a league game, and the break likely could not have come at a better time.

In that span, United’s two best goal scorers - Luciano Emilio (knee) and Jaime Moreno (hamstring) - recovered from injuries, and the team acquired midfielder Danny Szetela through the allocation draft.

“[The rest] has been great for me,” said Moreno, who added he’s fully healthy but will need some time to get his stamina up. “I haven’t missed that many games. For the team, I think it’s got to be good because we have [had] plenty of time to recharge. Right now, there [are] no excuses.”

Emilio and Moreno will try to keep United (5-3-9) unbeaten at RFK Stadium and near the top of the Eastern Conference standings as they face the Colorado Rapids (6-4-6) on Saturday.

Szetela, however, won’t play, because he’s visiting his ill mother in New Jersey. Even if he hadn’t made the trip back home, the 22-year-old likely would not have been eligible to play against the Rapids because his international transfer certificate hadn’t come in as of Thursday.

Colorado and United met in Commerce City, Colo., on June 20, when the Rapids controlled the game from start to finish, handing United a 3-0 loss - its worst defeat of the season. At the time, coach Tom Soehn’s club was not at full strength and was playing its third game in seven days.

United looks at Saturday’s contest as an opportunity for payback.

“Yeah I think everyone’s going into it with that mentality,” said midfielder/forward Chris Pontius, who has scored four goals in 17 games this year. “We’re not going to be doing anything special; we’ve just obviously got to play our game this time and not make those mistakes that we made in Colorado.”

That loss broke the team’s three-game unbeaten streak and took away all its momentum after a 2-1 defeat of the Chicago Fire a week earlier that catapulted United to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

The squad hasn’t won a league game since playing the Fire, sandwiching ties with Seattle and Columbus around the loss to the Rapids.

“It does seem like a while [since we last won],” captain Ben Olsen said. “You look back on the games and creating chances wasn’t our problem. Certainly [in] the Columbus game, we had some great chances.”

United’s tied for third in the East with Columbus - only one point separating it from Toronto FC and Chicago at the top. With these three other teams also playing at home Saturday, United could slip even farther down in the standings without a win.

“These ties are killing us,” Pontius said. “We need to start picking up some wins and getting some real points on the board.”

United will still be without midfielder/forward Santino Quaranta and defender Dejan Jakovic, who are playing for the United States and Canada, respectively, in the Gold Cup. The two have played in 28 combined games this year for United.

No one at RFK Stadium, however, seemed concerned with their absences because of the depth the team acquired since the of last year’s disappointing season.

“When we get into playing [every] Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday [for] five weeks straight, I think you know what we need and that is a lot of quality - a deep roster - so that we can get results,” said Dave Kasper, the team’s general manager. “Compared with last year, we’re a lot further ahead in that regard.”

Soehn, meanwhile, isn’t worried about the loss to Colorado last month, or the three points Omar Cummings put up against his team in that game or the two-week layoff.

Thanks to the long respite, he knows his team will be much harder to beat this time.

“I think we gave [ourselves] more trouble than they gave us trouble,” Soehn said. “They’ll see a different team [Saturday].”

Note - Rookie midfielder Brandon Barklage is done for the season after having reconstructive knee surgery. Barklage is being put on the season-ending injury list, allowing for a roster replacement.

He injured his ACL during United’s 2-1 victory over Harrisburg in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals last week.

Barklage’s rehabilitation is expected to take about six months.

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