United to honor Donovan with much on the line

United to honor Donovan with much on the line
August 26, 2014, 9:30 am
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Unless D.C. United hosts the LA Galaxy in MLS Cup 2014, the Landon Donovan retirement tour is not coming to R.F.K. Stadium. Instead United will present a farewell gift to Donovan before the only regular season meeting between the teams Wednesday in Los Angeles.

United head coach Ben Olsen, who played with Donovan on the U.S. Men’s National Team, and defender Sean Franklin, a former teammate on the Galaxy, will take part in a pregame ceremony with Donovan. The gift has not been revealed, but there is no question about the significance of the game in the developing tension that is the MLS playoff picture.

D.C. United just leaped over Sporting Kansas City for first place in the Eastern Conference. Saturday’s 3-0 win in Kansas City has United with a one point edge on Sporting. The Galaxy has only lost once in its last five matches and is now only five points behind Western Conference leader Seattle.

The challenge

  1. Eddie Johnson is available. This is a nice challenge for United head coach Ben Olsen to have. Johnson is back from a two-game suspension, but without him United scored seven goals in wins over Colorado and Sporting Kansas City. The forward partnership between Fabian Espindola and Luis Silva has been effective. They first paired together in a win over Montreal in June and now in three starts together they have combined for seven goals and five assists. This is not to say United is better without Johnson. The season has not followed a dream script for Johnson personally, but he was part of United’s rise and there is still much for the team to navigate through. United’s heavy schedule includes a game at home Sunday against New York and  that might make Wednesday night the perfect time to get a rested Johnson back on the field and use either Espindola or Silva off the bench. A strong finish by Johnson to the season could be a difference maker in a crowded Eastern Conference.
  2. A motivated Donovan and quality Galaxy side. Landon Donovan’s laid back demeanor hides an intense competitor. Donovan may be set to retire, but he is not retiring. From his determined goal in the All-Star game to his recent league play, Donovan has been showing the form that helped make him the face of U.S. Soccer.  Operating out of the midfield, Donovan supports forwards Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes and also remains a consistent threat to score.  Defense has been a concern for the Galaxy. The Galaxy has veterans across the backline and Jamie Penedo has been strong in goal. Still before Saturday’s 2-0 shutout of Vancouver, the Galaxy conceded nine goals in three games.