DC prepared for physical battle in Houston

Needing a result, United wary of Dynamo's toughness, set pieces

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Photo Credit: 
Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo

Visits to Houston have never been easy for D.C. United.

The team hasn’t won in six previous trips to Robertson Stadium, and heading into Friday evening’s Eastern Conference clash, D.C. is readying itself  for yet another tough matchup.

“It’s never easy to play in Houston,” midfielder Chris Pontius said. “They’re a physical team that has definitely a style of play that’s very direct. We’ve got to be tuned in mentally; they’re a team that likes to pick up a lot of second balls, and we have to win those battles.”

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D.C. makes the trip looking to snap a two-game losing streak in which it lost 4-0 to New York last Thursday before falling 3-2 to New England in an Open Cup play-in match on Tuesday. One of the keys for D.C. is dealing with the danger Houston poses on set-pieces.

Though U.S. international Brian Ching likely won’t start, the Dynamo are a threat to score from dead-ball situations as they boast the likes of Cam Weaver, Will Bruin, and Bobby Boswell — all physically imposing players looking to get on the end of Brad Davis' pinpoint service.

“They’re very good on set-pieces,” midfielder Dax McCarty said. “They have a number of dangerous players who can hurt you, especially Brad Davis who, in my opinion, is one of the better set-piece takers in the league. We’re going to have to be very tuned-in defensively, make sure we stay with runners and don’t give them anything easy.”

Along with staying honest on the defensive end, United will look to match the physicality expected from Houston.

“They tend to outfight teams, and their field is a little tighter, widthwise, than a lot of the fields in the league,” assistant coach Chad Ashton said, "so you have to be ready to battle."

While also contending with that, United head out in search of their scoring form after getting shut out in their last league outing against New York. Unfortunately, Branko Boskovic, one of the few bright spots that night, did not travel to Houston after suffering an injury in Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup qualifier.

The Montenegrin suffered a knee contusion against New England, and though MRI results showed nothing serious earlier this week, his exclusion is likely for precautionary reasons as he dealt with some lingering soreness this week.