After a humbling 4-0 loss at home to New York last Thursday and a 3-2 loss to the New England Revolution that eliminated D.C. United from U.S. Open Cup play for 2011, the Black-and-Red look to get back on the winning track tonight against the Houston Dynamo, who sit two points ahead of United in the Eastern Conference (yes, Houston's in the East now).
D.C. United (2-3-1) at Houston Dynamo (2-1-3)
Time: 8:30 p.m., Friday, April 29
Place: Robertson Stadium, Houston.
TV: Fox Soccer Channel
Team News and Tactics
D.C. United: Despite a negative MRI result, Branko Boskovic has been left behind in D.C. with a left knee contusion picked up in Tuesday night's Cup loss to New England. The injury couldn't have come at a worse time for the Montenegrin, who scored both United goals against the Revolution and appeared to be playing his way back into the starting lineup. Kurt Morsink (concussion) is also not with the team, though defenseman Jed Zayner (hamstring strain) and backup goaltender Steve Cronin (fractured left wrist) are both available for selection tonight.
I wouldn't expect to see too many changes from Thursday's lineup for D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen. It's possible that Zayner will get a run-out in defense as a substitute, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Andy Najar a bit earlier than we've been accustomed to seeing him this season after Olsen praised his play Tuesday night, but I would still expect to see the Triad of Charlie Davies, Josh Wolff and Chris Pontius leading the line, with Dax McCarty starting in midfield and a centerback pairing of Dejan Jakovic and Perry Kitchen. The other key question is whether Santino Quaranta or Fred takes the fourth midfield place alongside McCarty, Pontius, and Clyde Simms.
Houston: U.S. International Brian Ching likely will not start tonight's match due to separated ribs while Calen Carr is out with a concussion. Jermaine Taylor (foot sprain) and Francisco Navas Cobo (hamstring strain) are listed as questionable, while Danny Cruz is likely to start in midfield despite having a hyperextended knee.
The Dynamo played a 3-5-2 formation in last week's 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire, and I'd expect them to do the same thing here as they try to mirror New York's dominant midfield possession from last week.
Key To The Game
Defending Set Pieces: United struggle to defend set pieces, and Houston's equalizer against Chicago came off a corner kick in the 83rd minute. The Black-and-Red must deal with the physicality of last week's goalscorer Bobby Boswell, Will Bruin, and Cam Weaver if they are to come away with something tonight.
Bonus Miscellaneous Statistic
United is 0-6-1 all-time at Houston entering tonight's game.