May 24, 2013, 2:25 PM EST
Both teams set to perform Saturday at RFK Stadium are on upswings of success – even if success here is defined in such radically different ways.
Success for the home club, Ben Olsen’s heavily wilted D.C. United, looks like this: “One in a row!”
Olsen’s team snapped its club record seven game losing streak with a 1-1 draw last week – a controversial result, at that, as Sporting Kansas City’s potentially game-winning goal was incorrectly ruled offside. Either way, Olsen and Co. chalked up the afternoon at RFK as progress.
What other way to see it for a club that sits 10th in the 10-team Eastern Conference, with just 5 of a possible 33 points. United’s nine-game winless streak remains intact, however, one game short of an 11-year old club record. United players and coaches seemed a little too content with a draw at home, but Olsen tried to explain:
“There’s a lot to work on,” he said. “I’m not sugar-coating this tie, but it beats losing.
“I think there’s a little bit of an exhale [in the locker room], if I’m completely honest with you. It’s not easy to lose this many games and not have doubt. I think this gives them a chance to exhale and maybe smile for a day or two and understand that here’s an opportunity to really change things next weekend against Portland.”
Portland, meanwhile, is rising in ways not even thought about over its previous two seasons in Major League Soccer. Caleb Porter’s team is unbeaten in 10 consecutive matches, having extended their club record undefeated streak dramatically last week in Vancouver. Down to 10 men on the road, the Timbers still managed to dig up the late equalizer.
Other than what it means for the collective confidence, the Timbers ability to gather up points on the road has been a big part of 2013 success. A club that was a dismal 3-21-10 on the road over its first two seasons is unbeaten away from Jeld-Wen Field this year (1-0-5).
Mikael Silvestre’s season-ending injury continues to cause problems, as Saturday’s contest will see yet another change along the Timbers’ back line. Center back Futty Danso will sit out following last week’s ejection. He had partnered successfully with Andrew Jean-Baptiste over the last three Portland matches.
Then again, Portland may only need to hold serve on defense against a team with just six goals in 11 matches, last in the league.
Kickoff is 7 p.m. ET; the official league preview is here:
Other quick talking points for this one:
- D.C. United’s Nick DeLeon played centrally last week, and Olsen indicated he’s not averse to playing the exciting your attacker, normally a flank midfielder, on the interior again.
- This will be the teams’ only meeting of 2013 (unless they meet in MLS Cup)
- Chris Pontius (pictured), whose 2013 struggles are certainly among the problems around RFK this year, made his first appearance since late April in the draw with Kansas City. Admittedly nowhere near match-fit, Pontius did help set up United’s goal during his 45 minutes.
- Former United man Rodney Wallace has moved up the field, from defender to left winger, and is having a fantastic season there.
- Dwayne De Rosario, a former MLS MVP, has just one goal and one assist in eight matches this year.
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