Their 2010 record does not match their reputation, but D.C. United interim coach Ben Olsen still expects a vintage Houston Dynamo performance when the Western Conference underachievers visit RFK Stadium on Saturday night.
Perennial playoff participants, Houston has slumped badly down the stretch this season and now sits just five points ahead of United in the overall league standings. Wednesday night’s 4-3 loss in Kansas City might have marked a low point for Dominic Kinnear’s side, as they fumbled away a 3-1 halftime lead with a lamentable second-half display. But Olsen is not reading much into that result as he continues to focus on addressing his own team’s shortcomings.
“Houston, in a lot of ways, has had similar results and experiences as we’ve had this year,” said Olsen on Friday. “I think both teams are hungry for a win. I know they’ve had two very difficult losses, and we’ve had several as of late, too. Houston always comes with a big physical presence. They always have. But we’re pleased to be back at home, and we’re always trying to finish this season on a positive note.”
The battle in the center of the park will be telling. Carrying a sports hernia that will require surgery at the end of the campaign, D.C. defensive midfielder Clyde Simms will be in uniform on Saturday but probably will not start, making it likely that Stephen King and Kurt Morsink will man the central roles again unless playmaker Branko Boskevic is brought back into the first 11.
Carlos Varela is in contention for a more prominent role after making his United debut against the Galaxy last week, and fellow newcomer Junior Carreiro will also be hoping to see his first MLS action. Olsen praised both as offensive options with game-changing potential.
"Varela just got a little bit of a look last game, and I liked it," he said of the Spaniard. "Even though it was a couple minutes, you could tell that he’s a guy who has played at a very high level and been in some big games. So I have no problems with him stepping in.”