After a two-week break thanks to a bye weekend, a rested and healthy D.C. United team heads to Colorado to take on the Rapids.
Following three poor performances against New York City FC, San Jose Earthquakes and New York Red Bulls, United used the two weeks to regroup and return to full strength.
“A little moody,” coach Ben Olsen said of his team after their loss to the Red Bulls. “Losing a game going into a break is never fun. It is a good moodiness.”
Forward Fabián Espíndola is likely to return to the lineup this weekend against Colorado. Espíndola’s importance showed during his four-game absence due to a knee injury. D.C. won one game and lost four since its 6-4 come-from-behind victory over Real Salt Like on Aug. 1.
“It will be interesting,” forward Chris Rolfe said about Espíndola returning. “Any time we can get consistency this next month will give help us a lot going forward.”
This season has been a true test of depth for D.C. United. The team has seen its fair share of injuries, but has found ways to win despite the loss of several players throughout the season. As the summer winds down, United looks for familiarity in the final stretch.
“We’ve done a great job shifting the lineup and guys stepping in and outperforming their expectations,” Rolfe said. “At the same time it would be nice to have some consistency.”
D.C. United has six games left in the regular season, with three at RFK Stadium. Although United slipped to fourth in the race for the Supporters Shield, the team currently sits atop the Eastern Conference—four points ahead of the New York Red Bulls.
“Practice has been competitive and tough. We are kicking each other. You can tell we want to play,” Rolfe explained. “We know what our goals are here in the next couple games and that’s going to motivate us.”
Also returning to the squad are Markus Halsti and Álvaro Saborío, who spent time on their respective national teams. The versatile Halsti saw time in the midfield and on the backline in Finland’s two wins against Greece and Faroe Islands in the Euro 2016 Qualifiers. Saborío joined Costa Rica for two friendlies on Sept. 5 and Sept. 8.
On the other side of the pitch, Colorado suffered a 2-0 loss to the leaders in the race for the Supporters’ Shield, Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The Rapids have had success scoring off set pieces, a detail United’s defense will give special attention.
“It is important for us to get better right now and start to build some momentum for the post season,” Olsen said Friday after training. “It starts with this weekend.”
D.C. United will fly to Colorado on Friday ahead of Saturday’s match against the Rapids. The game is set to kick off at 9 p.m. EST on CSN.
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