Ben Olsen sees opportunity in Chicago
The air has been cleared. Captain Dwayne De Rosario and head coach Ben Olsen sorted out their differences. The team is starting to get healthy. D.C. United is hoping the start of a new month is also a fresh start beginning Sunday in Chicago.
United and the Fire collide on Sunday in similar situations. Both have new added new faces to their lineup and are coming off positive midweek results in the U.S. Open Cup. Still the struggles in MLS for United and Fire cannot be masked. United is in the basement of the Eastern Conference and the Fire are only three points ahead of the Black and Red.
More was expected from the Fire and United this season after both teams secured playoff spots last year. United is last in the league in scoring with only 6 goals. The Fire is not much better with only 7 goals. Mike Magee has been added from the LA Galaxy in exchange for the rights to Robbie Rogers in an effort to boost the Fire’s anemic offense.
United has also made a change, as The Marcos Sanchez experiment is over. The Panamanian international was never able to connect with United and never really threatened to make an impact in nine matches including six starts. Added to the roster is free agent Sainey Nyassi, a flank midfielder who joined MLS in late 2007 with the New England Revolution.
In 102 matches with the Revolution Nyassi made 75 starts and scored 8 goals with 4 assists. It is hoped that Nyassi, a Gambian international, can use his explosive speed to help unlock defenses and breathe life into an offense that has often lacked ideas. Nyassi is not the type of player that can dramatically change a team, but might be part of the collective answer.
Nyassi joins a United midfield mix that suddenly is healthier. Nick De Leon’s sophomore season has been slowed by a hamstring injury, but he has started the last two matches and played the full 90 minutes in each. Chris Pontius is back from a groin injury and John Thorington appears ready to return from a knee injury. Thorington has not played since United’s only win on March 9.
With more options, there are more questions. Last week in a 2-0 loss to Portland, Dwayne De Rosario was used as a substitute, while Pontius started up top with Carlos Ruiz. Porter and De Leon played wide. Ruiz made a difference with the first eleven and added bite to the attack, but was only on the field for five minutes with De Rosario.
De Rosario wanted to be in the starting lineup with Ruiz and expressed his dissatisfaction in post game comments after the loss to the Timbers. De Rosario met with head coach Ben Olsen the next day and last week does seem to be an issue. It’s not clear if that means De Rosario will start against the Fire and be part of an attack that includes Ruiz.
As United tries to find the right combination on offense, there are still issues to deal with on defense. In conceding 22 goals in 12 matches this season, it has not been an indictment on goalkeeper Bill Hamid. Defensive miscues, some of which probably should not have happened at this level, have added to United’s woes.
On Sunday Joe Willis will likely make his second start of the season with Hamid back in D.C. with the U.S. Men’s National Team for the friendly against Germany. Andrew Dykstra has been called up to United from his loan to Richmond. Willis and Dysktra were opposing goalkeepers in United’s win on penalty kicks over Richmond in the Open Cup.
In that game against Richmond, Conor Shanosky earned his first start and appearance across all competitions for United .Against the Kickers Shanosky went the full 120 minutes at center back next to Daniel Woolard. Shanosky had previously only played for United in 2011 friendlies against Ajax and Everton. Shanosky and rookie Taylor Kemp offer options if Olsen decides to dramatically change the back line.
The Fire enters Sunday’s match eager to build on a 1-1 draw on the road against Real Salt Lake. On Wednesday against Charlotte Magee scored in a 2-0 Open Cup win. He will likely be used as a striker instead of a midfield role. Magee had 6 goals with the Galaxy, one shy of the Fire’s team total.
There is pressure in Chicago to start to make something out of the Fire’s 2013 season. It is the same kind of pressure facing United. Looking at the table United against the Fire is not a marquee matchup, but it is one that should offer plenty of tension and commitment. United is hoping for goals too.