Preview: Crew at D.C. United
A familiar face -- and possibly a more famous beard -- could return to the Crew starting XI this weekend as Eddie Gaven has recovered from an ankle injury that kept him out of matches against Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the San Jose Earthquakes. The veteran midfielder participated in training without restriction as the Black & Gold prepare for their first Eastern Conference opponent in D.C. United on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET/NBC Sports Network).
"I feel good," Gaven said on Thursday. "It's been good to get back and play with the team after being out for two weeks. I'm definitely excited to be back about the game this weekend. I'm looking forward to getting back out there on the field and trying to help this team get three points against D.C."
Ben Speas impressed filling in for Gaven on the left side of midfield the past two weeks. Gaven could switch over to the right wing as Dominic Oduro is a top candidate to replace Jairo Arrieta, who is away on international duty, at forward.
No matter where he may play on the field, Gaven's teammates are thrilled to have the tireless worker healthy again.
"It's always important to have someone like Eddie," defender Josh Williams said. "We kind of feed off him. He's such a consistent player, and he's the guy we look to. He's doing something positive. For him to come back and either fly up the left or right side being as dangerous of a player as he is in the attack -- and he is always coming and helping defenders too -- [Gaven's] someone that can bring that to the lineup is always a good to have."
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
To start 2013, the Crew plays five of its first eight matches away from home. To make things more difficult, the Black & Gold now faces a rival in D.C. United at RFK Stadium where it has been victorious just six times in 27 matches.
While hoping to maintain the intensity it had in last weekend's home opener against San Jose, the Crew knows the home team will come out firing.
"You don't want to go down a goal anywhere, but especially on the road," Williams explained. "Teams come out fired up at home, so we like to sit in and get a feel for the game."
The defender continued: "You always want to pick up points. You want to get three [points], but on the road while you wan to win, sometimes a point will do. We just go in, play hard and hope for a victory."
On the road, anything can happen. In a hostile atmosphere like RFK Stadium, the Black & Gold must get a feel for the game early.
"Sometimes on the road, it doesn't always go the way you may have it planned out prior to the match," Gaven added. "We just have to see what the game is going to give us and be able to play off of that. I think it starts with playing team defense and hopefully that leads to goals on the other end of the field. Hopefully we can go there, play the way we've played through three games this week and pick up three points."
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Saturday's match will be the Crew's first nationally televised match of 2013. Despite increased attention, there is no added pressure on the Black & Gold.
"I wouldn't say there's that much added pressure," Williams said. "It's just another game for us on the road. RFK Stadium is always a tough place to play. We're going to go in, play our style and hopefully come away with three points."
"We try to play the same way whether we're on national TV or not," Gaven echoed. "I don't think it's a huge factor at all. That's not even in most guys' minds right now."
Gaven has a history of coming up big in national TV matches at RFK Stadium. As a MetroStar in 2003, the then-16-year-old famously scored his first career goal to beat United in extratime after coming on as a goalkeeper for an injured Mark Lisi and switching with Tim Howard to become a field player.
Perhaps Gaven can find that magic again Saturday.