D.C. United can move into first place with win over Columbus

D.C. United can move into first place with win over Columbus
June 6, 2014, 9:00 am
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First place D.C. United. For United supporters who endured a three-win campaign last season it probably sounds nice and it is possible. With a win Saturday at Fed Ex Field over the Columbus Crew (6:30 p.m. on CSN), United will move above New England into the top spot in the Eastern Conference for the time since 2012.

The United-Crew match is the second game of a doubleheader that also features World Cup champions Spain against El Salvador. United begins the weekend two points behind the Revolution. Both United and the Revolution have played 13 matches. The Revolution is on 23 points and does not play until a Sunday home game against the New York Red Bulls.

Bill Hamid:

It’s exciting. Especially with the crowd that we know is going to come for the Spain versus El Salvador game. It’s a chance for us to get into a nice venue and play a formidable team in front of a big crowd and do well. It’s a big game for Spain and El Salvador, and our heads are going to be wrapped around our game and getting three points.

The challenge:

1. Replacing Perry Kitchen. United will have to do without Kitchen Saturday because of yellow-card accumulation. Kitchen has been United’s anchor in midfield. When the conversation turns to United’s improved defense the focus is often on the back line, but Kitchen’s organization and work rate help explain why opponents have struggled to get quality chances against United.   For the last ten games Kitchen and Davy Arnaud have formed a rock-solid partnership in the center of midfield. Arnaud is versatile and started the season playing on the flank while Luis Silva was in the middle just in front of Kitchen. It is possible that Silva could make the first eleven with Arnaud playing more of a holding role. Another option to fill-in for Kitchen is Lewis Neal who can also play in the middle.

2. Dealing with a wounded Crew team. On paper United should have an advantage. That is always a dangerous concept. The Crew has had a busy week and is coming off a 1-1 draw on Wednesday with Real Salt Lake. Federico Higuain had to leave the game just before halftime with a hamstring injury. If as expected Higuain is not able to play Saturday, the Crew will have to find a way without its most creative force. Higuain is a game changer, although it must be noted even with Higuain the Crew has struggled with only one win over the last two months.  Holding midfielder Will Trapp has been bothered by a knee injury and might miss a third consecutive game on Saturday.   Still the Crew found a way to score a late equalizer against Real Salt Lake with Ethan Finlay scoring his third goal in four games. In short the Crew is wounded, but still dangerous.