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Dejan Jakovic's absence puts pressure on United's defense

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Sports,D.C. United,Craig Stouffer

Olsen prods team for better ball possession

It might be surprising to learn that D.C. United (1-1-1, 4 points), a team that has struggled to control the ball and has scored once in three games, is off to its best start in four years.

Not since 2009 has United lost fewer than twice in the first three matches. Much of the credit goes to the defense, which recorded back-to-back shutouts after a season-opening 2-0 loss at Houston. That unit will take its turn facing adversity against the Columbus Crew (1-1-1, 4 points).

up next
Crew at D.C. United
When » Saturday, 3:30
Where » RFK Stadium
TV » NBC Sports Network

Just as the offense went without suspended playmaker Dwayne De Rosario for the first two games of the year, United won't have center back Dejan Jakovic, who is on international duty with the Canadian national team, against the Crew. The absence will pave the way for changes on the back line, where James Riley could shift into the middle and either Daniel Woolard or Ethan White could be in line for a return to the starting lineup.

United remains unbeaten at home in 19 straight matches but is coming off a scoreless draw against New York in which D.C. needed an MLS player of the week performance by goalkeeper Bill Hamid.

"Our passing was just terrible," United coach Ben Olsen said. "Our hold-up play wasn't good. You do that enough, you lose the ball enough, and you just defend. Then the old cycle hits where you defend, you win the ball finally and nobody moves for each other because you're exhausted from defending. It's a vicious cycle."

U.S. vs. Germany set for RFK, Cup qualifiers loom
U.S. Soccer made a long-awaited announcement that RFK Stadium will be the site of the men's national team's 100th anniversary celebration match against Germany on June 2 (2:30 p.m., ESPN2).

"That stadium means a lot to U.S. Soccer," U.S. coach and German native Jurgen Klinsmann said. "It's a big moment for the whole organization against an opponent who is one of the best in the world."

The match will be the second game for the U.S. during a busy stretch that starts May 29 against Belgium in Cleveland. But the national team's first priority is Friday's World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica in Denver. The U.S. (0-1-0, 0 points) sits in last place in the six-team CONCACAF group after an ugly 2-1 loss at Honduras (1-0-0, 3 points) on Feb. 6. Costa Rica (0-0-1, one point) and Mexico (0-0-1, one point) -- whom the U.S. will visit on Tuesday -- each tied their first match of the 10-game qualifying round.

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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