Eddie Johnson returns as D.C. United takes on New England

Eddie Johnson returns as D.C. United takes on New England
May 23, 2014, 9:00 am
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(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Here it is late May and Major League Soccer’s marquee match of the Memorial Day weekend is a top of the table clash between D.C. United and New England. It’s doubtful anyone predicted this scenario before the season, but on the field where it matters the teams have made it happen.

Riding a six-game unbeaten streak the Revolution is in first place in the Eastern Conference on 20 points from 11 matches. The Revs last loss was in April to United at R.F.K. Stadium. United has also played 11 matches after Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Houston and is only two points behind the Revolution.

The surprise that United and the Revolution are in this position also stems from their starts to this season. United had that dreary opening 3-0 loss to Columbus. In the opening two games of the season the Revs were outscored 5-0 and did not score a goal until week four of the season when they earned their first win 2-1 over San Jose.

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The challenge:

1. Ambushing the Revolution. New England has yet to lose at home this season and is in rhythm where ever it plays. This is the quickest in club history that the New England has reached 20 points and it is latest into a season that the Revs have been in first place since 2008. In their six-game unbeaten run the Revs have collected 17 of their 19 goals good for third best in MLS. Maryland’s Patrick Mullins was drafted 11th by New England and is now starting at striker with Jerry Bengtson now with Honduras for the World Cup. Mullins has scored a goal in each of the last three games. Teal Bunbury who started the season up top has been playing wide on the left with Diego Fagundez wide on the right in the midfield. United has to be prepared for their pace and there can be no casual moments from United’s outside backs.

2. Be ready for pressure. A big part of New England’s success is triggered by the team’s work rate and pressure on the ball. Relentless ball pursuit from central midfielders Lee Nguyen and Andy Dorman has been credited with helping to ignite New England’s now potent attack. Like D.C., New England emphasizes getting its forwards involved in defense to prevent teams from getting comfortable.

3. Welcome back Eddie. Eddie Johnson, who was nice enough to tweet us during our broadcast of Wednesday’s win, will be back from a one-game suspension. United played well without him Wednesday, but needs him to be a part of the equation. Suspension is never a good thing, but maybe a blessing in disguise with the win over Houston secure. It is hoped a rested Johnson can provide a lift as United tries to find success in its third match in seven days. Regardless United has demonstrated it has the quality and depth to be competitive with a challenging schedule.

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