Here’s what D.C. United coach Ben Olsen wants his team to do differently against New York in Wednesday’s second leg from what they did in the first leg, which ended in a 1-1 tie: almost nothing.
“I’d like to score the PK if we get one, like to not make silly red cards, like to try to limit our own goals to zero,” he said.
Yep, that means D.C. United is pretty happy about how it played against the Red Bulls last weekend. The team remains confident and at ease heading into a tense second leg that will require the same performance, apart from one crucial difference: scoring one more goal than New York.
“I think they were excited about the way we went about it the other night but unfulfilled,” Olsen said. “We have a huge job ahead of us to make sure we go there and get the result that we need.”
Midfielder Branko Boskovic gave up World Cup qualifying with Montenegro this fall to help United reach the playoffs. What’s his reaction to the intensity of the stage and spotlight so far?
“I have in my career a lot of games like this and really I understand the situation,” Boskovic said. “I am motivated, and I think the team also, we are ready for a fight.”
Boskovic is a former Designated Player; the Red Bulls have three, but none bigger than Thierry Henry, who was effectively shut down in Game 1. The United defense knows there’s no bigger task but to do the same the second time around.
“You can tell if things aren’t going well, he gets frustrated, zones out a little bit,” United center back Dejan Jakovic said. “But if he’s on, that’s when they’re dangerous. We gotta make sure we keep him out of the game because they follow him. When he’s on his game, when he’s playing well, that’s when they’re at their best. We gotta stay tight with him, limit his chances, and we’ll be good.”
Jakovic remains particularly concerned with interchange and runs from New York midfielders Dax McCarty and Tim Cahill. McCarty’s back-and-forth battle with his old teammate, Pontius, was an entertaining battle in the first game. There was no doubt, however, about Pontius’ domination of Red Bulls right back Connor Lade, who gave up the handball that resulted in Pontius’ penalty kick – a call that nearly could’ve been Lade’s second yellow card.
The last word from Boskovic, who said United hasn’t been practicing penalty kicks: “New York is a good team, especially in this league. They have a lot of good individual players, but we watch the tape, and we know how to deal with this. It’s important tomorrow, I think, our defense, we concentrate and keep 0-0 as much as possible and try to score. It’s important to be one group, collective, only like this we can beat this team.”
*While tomorrow’s MLS game is set to go off as scheduled, Hurricane Sandy has prompted the Big East to shift its men’s soccer semifinals and finals from Red Bull Arena to PPL Park outside Philadelphia. Georgetown faces Marquette in one of two semis on Friday, Connecticut plays Notre Dame in the other. The final is Sunday.
*United will travel to New York with more than its usual travel roster but not necessarily the entire team. Should D.C. win and Houston hold on after its 2-0 win over Sporting Kansas City in the other East semifinal, United will play at the Dynamo on Saturday afternoon – and could depart for Texas from New York on Thursday. If D.C. and Kansas City win, Game 1 of the conference final is at RFK Stadium.
*D.C. defender Ethan White suffered a left ankle injury and limped off the RFK Stadium field on Tuesday with the aid of a trainer. Further information wasn’t immediately available.
*Midfielder/defender Andy Najar was called up by the Honduran national team for a Nov. 14 game against Peru at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston. Najar’s availability will depend on D.C. United’s playoff outcome. Because Nov. 14 is a FIFA date, Honduras could force his release, too, but it would be poor form to do so if United reaches the conference final. Dynamo midfielder Oscar Boniek Garcia was also called into the squad.