History is both a teacher and a cruel reminder. It was almost exactly a year ago to the day that D.C. Uniteds push for the playoffs was tripped up in a 2-2 home draw with Chivas USA. On Sunday United will look to learn from that memory when Chivas USA again visits. R.F.K Stadium.
To put it kindly Chivas USA is having another difficult season. Like 2011 when Chivas finished in eighth place in the Western Conference, the 2012 side has lost four straight matches and has not won since a 1-0 result over Portland in late July. Still a 3-3 road draw at New England is a reminder of the potential danger of Chivas.
D.C. United last played Chivas at home on September 21, 2011.United was still reeling from the loss of Chris Pontius to a broken leg eleven days earlier at Chivas. United then lost at Seattle 3-0 before coming home searching for a way forward without Pontius. Does that sound ominously familiar? United is trying to secure a playoff spot without Dwayne De Rosario, lost for the season with a knee injury.
D.C United looked for far from sharp at the beginning of last years home match with Chivas, but gradually gained in confidence and by the 47th minute seemed in control with a 2-0 lead. In a span of 12 minutes of the second half United lost the plot and Chivas scored two goals. De Rosario had a penalty kick saved in stoppage time. It was a tie that felt like a loss to United.
After the 2-2 draw with Chivas, United managed only one win over its final seven matches and missed the playoffs. With that as a reminder, United needs to earn three points at home on Sunday against Chivas, who only has 28 points from 28 matches, to avoid a sense of repeating what happened last year.
Points are at a premium in this MLS playoff race. The top five teams in the Eastern Conference make the playoffs and at the start of play Saturday only five points separated the second place and the sixth place team in the Eastern Conference. The tightness of the race underscored the importance of Uniteds 1-0 win Thursday at Philadelphia.
Lionard Pajoy scored against his old team to snare the victory. Maicon Santos played a 40-yard diagonal ball to Chris Pontius streaking down the right flank. Ponitius handled the pressure while the Unions defense scrambled to recover, and then passed it to Pajoy in the middle of the area who chest-trapped it down and finished on a half-volley.
The goal was wonderful, but the game was still unsettling for United. In their first game without De Rosario United defeated New England 2-1, but head coach Ben Olsen was not pleased with the overall effort and only singled out praise for goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who preserved the victory with two late saves.
Again it wasnt the greatest performance, but thats what youve gotta do these days, Olsen said after the win over the Union. Were still trying to find ourselves. As far as life after DeRo (Dwayne De Rosario) and our shape, tweaking things. I thought for the most part we hung in there early then Maicon (Santos) came in and really helped out, and I thought changed the game.
The search continues for the right lineup for United. After four straight games with Perry Kitchen and Marcelo Saragoa starting together in the center of the midfield, Branko Boskovic started the last two games. Against Philadelphia United went with a 4-5-1 with Lewis Neal and Kitchen sitting behind Boskovic. Santos was a substitute.
Regardless of the formation United has to be wary of Chivas. Despite the goats, their nickname not a commentary, woes, there is quality in the side. Leading scourer forward Juan Pablo Angel is being used as a substitute. Alejandro Moreno can be disruptive up top and Juan Agudelo and Shalrie Joseph are trying to get adjusted to new surroundings after coming to Chivas via trade.
Its a dangerous opponent especially when a team like Chivas doesnt have a whole lot to lose, they become very dangerous, said Pontius. I think people are playing for their jobs there. But we are at home and hopefully we get control of the game more.