United looks to take back RFK--again

United looks to take back RFK--again
March 8, 2013, 8:30 am
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DCU looking forward to first home game

When D.C. United last stepped on the field at R.F.K. Stadium for the Eastern Conference final in November,  the Black and Red’s supporters wowed the team by raising banners that covered a side of the stadium and read, “They can’t hold us back — we are United.”  

“The energy is going to be good we are going to bring it,” said United goalkeeper Bill Hamid who proclaimed they can’t hold us back we are United after a playoff win against New York. “We love being here at R.F.K. We love our fans. Our fans show us the utmost love and respect and we just want to give them the same thing back with a great performance.”

United returns to East Capitol Street on Saturday for its home opener against Real Salt Lake, but not as much is on the line this time. Against Houston in November United was trying to make it to MLS Cup. Still the challenge is a stiff one for United, who remain without Dwayne De Rosario, and will be dealing with an RSL side that is full of quality despite injuries and changes.

Real Salt Lake served noticed that it can move forward without Fabian Espindola, Jamison Olave and Will Johnson, when it opened the season last Sunday with a 2-0 win on the road against San Jose. Espindola, Olave and Johnson were jettisoned in a salary cap move, but Alvaro Saborio is still around and collected both goals in the win over the Earthquakes.

Saborio is an elite player in MLS that often gets overlooked. The Costa Rican international has never made an All-Star team, but in three seasons has scored 40 goals and finished third in MLS last season with 17. In the midfield Kyle Beckerman, who is from Crofton Maryland and went to Arundel High School, just turned in his 300th appearance with the club and in goal Nick Rimando his 100th career shutout.

In short Salt Lake is well positioned for another long season. Robbie Findley scored 12 goals when RSL won the MLS Cup in 1999  and is now back to partner up top with Saborio after spending time with Nottingham Forest in England. United States Under-20 international Luis Gil is in the playmaking role while Javier Morales recovers from a preseason knee injury.

On defense the loss of Olave is not an easy one to make up for. Olave was the team’s defensive anchor. Nat Borchers, Olave’s partner in the center of the defense, is still with the team, but is recovering from injury. For now Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Chris Sculer are in the middle of the back line and will benefit from Beckerman playing in front of them.

Saturday will be the second and final game of De Rosario’s two-game suspension for a pre-season incident. To be sure it was not the way United wanted to start the season last week in Houston. As expected without De Rosario United went with five in the midfield and the Dynamo did not secure victory until two goals in the final ten minutes.

“Looking over the Houston game I wasn’t that disappointed,” said United head coach Ben Olsen. “You always come out of there and you are gutted from the loss and emotional, but the things that haunted us there are very fixable.”

D.C. United has not lost at home since a 1-0 defeat to Sporting Kansas City in last season’s home opener. Including the post season United is now unbeaten in 18 consecutive matches at R.F.K. Stadium. While United was eliminated in the Eastern Conference final, the match at home against the Dynamo ended in a 1-1 draw.

“We will use the energy and home field to our advantage,” Olsen added. “Hopefully we can continue with the success we have had R.F.K. over the last year. It is important to us and important to our fans. It is important if you are going to make the playoffs and that is our goal.”

“Take back R.F.K”. was United’s motto last year. The Black and Red succeeded, but now it starts all over again.

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