Preview: Crew vs. D.C. United

Rebuilding DC, Crew open seasons at RFK stadium

Eddie Gaven

Photo Credit: 
Ned Dishman - Getty Images

Long-time Eastern Conference rivals and MLS Original Clubs, D.C. United and the Columbus Crew kick off the 2011 season by renewing acquaintances at RFK Stadium.

REFEREE: Mark Geiger. SAR (bench): Eric Boria; JAR (opposite): Sean Hurd; 4th: Landis Wiley

MLS Career: 77 games; FC/gm: 26.8; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 14; pens: 24

HEAD-TO-HEAD

ALL-TIME (49 meetings): United 22 wins (5 shootout), 72 goals … Crew 19 wins (0 shootout), 70 goals … Ties 8

AT RFK STADIUM (24 meetings): United 15 wins (3 shootout), 49 goals … Crew 6 wins (0 shootout), 33 goals … Ties 3

RETURN MATCH: 10/2: Columbus Crew vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m.

LAST YEAR (MLS):

6/26: CLB 2, DC 0 (Barros Schelotto 57; Brunner 87)

9/4: DC 0, CLB 1 (Barros Schelotto 23)

  • The teams also met in the U.S. Open Cup a year ago, the Crew taking a
    2-1 overtime victory in a semifinal played at RFK Stadium three days
    before the second league meeting.
  • The Crew have won five of the last seven league meetings between the
    clubs, dating back to Oct. 20, 2007. United’s only win in that span
    came in the second meeting in 2009.
  • The teams met three times in the first four years of the league in
    the MLS Cup Playoffs – with United winning on each occasion – yet have
    not faced each other in the postseason since 1999.

Coaches record: Ben Olsen v CLB: P1 W0 L1 D0 … Robert Warzycha vs. DC: P5 W2 L1 D2

D.C. UNITED

D.C. United begin their first full year under long-time standout Ben
Olsen as head coach, trying to again return to the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Last year, United finished in eighth place in the Eastern Conference
with 22 points from 30 games and a 6-20-4 record.

  • United concluded their preseason schedule with a 2-2 draw with Toronto FC
    in the final match of the Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston, S.C.
    Charlie Davies gave United a 12th-minute lead, but goals from Dwayne De Rosario and Maicon Santos gave TFC a halftime lead, before Josepn Ngwenya equalized just after the hour.
  • Davies is continuing to regain his form following an automobile
    accident just before the World Cup. He was a first-choice option for the
    U.S. national team before the accident; he came to United on loan from
    French club Sochaux.
  • "Charlie's looked good," Olsen said to The Sports Network.
    "When he first came he had a lot of rust from being out and being in
    France where I don't think they worked with him enough. He was a little
    out of sight out of mind over there. That's not going to be the case
    here. He's going to be a big part of this group and we are going to work
    very hard to make sure he gets back to where he needs to be as a
    player."
  • Pat Onstad was originally signed as the goalkeeping coach for the club, after seemingly concluding his career. But an injury to Steve Cronin has led him to again don the gloves.
  • "He's one hell of an emergency goalkeeper," Olsen said of Onstad.
    "We're very lucky that when we were figuring out what we would do with
    the goalkeeping situation that we had him right on our doorstep."
  • In the middle of the back four, rookie Perry Kitchen is expected to
    claim a starting role alongside Dejan Jakovic. Kitchen was a defensive
    midfielder at the University of Akron and center back with the U.S.
    under-20 national team.
  • “Sometimes you forget how young he is,” Olsen said to The Washington Post.
    “He’s an ultra-competitive guy. He’s the type of guy we want here. His
    concentration level is high for a young kid, and it’s contagious.”
  • The club’s leading returning scorer from a year ago is Andy Najar, who had 5 goals and 1 assist in his rookie season.
  • "It's always tough the second year when you have a successful first year," Olsen said to The Sports Network.
    "People are gunning for you, they know who you are. There's no free
    passes anymore, you're not sneaking up on anyone. I've tried to mentally
    prepare him for that."

COLUMBUS CREW

The Columbus Crew have undergone a makeover in an attempt to return
to the MLS Cup Final, where they were just a couple of seasons ago. Last
year, they finished second in the Eastern Conference with 50 points
from a 14-8-8 record, but again tripped at the first hurdle in the
postseason.

  • The Crew concluded their preseason schedule with a pair of games
    against MLS competition near Atlanta. The Crew finished with a 1-0
    victory against the Houston Dynamo, after a 3-1 victory against the New England Revolution.
  • Emmanuel Ekpo filled the playmaking role in central midfield, with Dilly Duka starting ahead of Robbie Rogers on one flank, and Eddie Gaven
    filling the other. Serbian holding midfielder Dejan Rusmir, 31, could
    be the firstchoice after being signed earlier in the week.
  • Standout Chad Marshall is set in central defense, with Julius James – acquired earlier in the preseason from D.C. United – possibly ahead of Andy Iro alongside. Newcomer Sebastian Mendoza will start at right back, with rookie Rich Balchan the current first-choice at left back, ahead of the still-recovering Shaun Francis.
  • Goalkeeper William Hesmer, who missed the two matches in CONCACAF Champions League play while recovering from a right shoulder fracture, appears ready.
  • "We're playing different soccer than we did last year and the year
    before," head coach Robert Warzycha said of his changed system. "You're
    seeing players understanding the system, fitting in and enjoying the
    game. It's encouraging."
  • "We used significant resources to keep Schelotto here during his
    era, and we have no regrets about it because he was worth every penny,
    and maybe more," Crew technical director Brian Bliss said to the Columbus Dispatch. "I like what we have now, but we left ourselves some wiggle room to add something if we blow a tire somewhere down the road."
  • The Crew were possibly helped by the two competitive matches well before the MLS season started, falling 4-1 on aggregate to Real Salt Lake in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League (with a scoreless draw in the first leg).
  • "Are we as good as we were in those 50 or 60 good minutes we played
    at home against Salt Lake, or as bad as those bad 60 or 70 minutes we
    played at Salt Lake? I don't know," Bliss said to the Dispatch. "We're probably somewhere in between right now."
  • Jeff Cunningham returns to Columbus one goal behind Jaime Moreno for
    the all-time MLS lead in goals. Cunningham has 132 and also shares the
    Crew club scoring mark of 62 goals with Brian McBride.
  • "It's only fitting to possibly break the record in this uniform," said Cunningham to the Dispatch.