This week, FC Dallas leaves the comfy confines of home to head to the raccoon-infested belly of RFK Stadium. DC United looks to be possibly turning the corner after finishing 2013 in the basement (even if that basement does have the 100th Lamar Hunt US Open Cup trophy displayed quite nicely).
In this week's installment, I electronically met up with Ben (not THAT Ben) to discuss all things Black and Red. Join me for our peek into the inner workings of FC Dallas' next oppoent:
1) I spent some time in the District; I watched Ben Olsen's last match in black from Molly Malone's. His appointment to head coach after Curt Onalfo was intuitive but ambitious. Here we are in Ben's (almost) 4th full year at the helm and United's standing hasn't improved dramatically the past couple of seasons (2012 aside). This year is off to an ok start at 2-2-2 after 6 matches, but how much pressure is on Ben Olsen to win? Is his time running out?
Ben Olsen is under double pressure to perform well this year: his team played terribly last season and he is in the last year of his current contract. If the team is in the bottom three in the East, he is definitely out; if he misses the playoffs, but is close, I still think they move in a different direction but they could keep him on. If he makes the playoffs, I think they renew his contract, simple as that. United have never had a coach as long as they have had Ben Olsen, and I still think that Ben Olsen can improve by leaps and bounds.
2) Eddie Johnson is getting some praise for the work he's done off the ball and helping DCU offensively, but he has yet to score a goal in 500+ minutes. Being an international and a league veteran, how is Eddie helping this team, and how is DCU helping Eddie's chance at that coveted plane ride to Brazil?
EJ is helping the team so far, but not as much as everyone hoped when they traded for him. So far, Johnson has been able to provide good hold-up play and serve as a distraction that opposing defenses must watch, allowing players like Fabian Espindola and Nick DeLeon to run rampant. However, he will be needed to score goals if United is to make the playoffs this fall. I personally do not think that his World Cup spot is at risk, but many other pundits do think so. I think you have to look at what he did over the course of qualifying (as well as the goal that should have counted in the most recent friendly) and take him based on that. I don't really see any strikers that are so hot that they would knock EJ out, and their time to prove it is almost over.
3) With Cruz Azul being crowned continental champion this week, I wonder what do you think DC United's chances are in the CONCACAF Champions League later this year? What, if anything, will they need to do differently in order to prepare?
The complete overhaul of the roster in the offseason was the first step in preparing for the Concacaf Champions League. The next step is one or two players coming in the summer window to give the team more challenges for starters across the board. However, even with all of those moves, I'm not too excited by D.C. United's chances; getting out of the group stage would be a clear victory for this team, especially coming off of last year.
Black and Red United Predicted Lineup and Scoreline:
I will go with a very optimistic D.C. United 2-2 FC Dallas.
Lineup will be Andrew Dykstra; Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Jeff Parke, Christian; Nick DeLeon, Davy Arnaud, Perry Kitchen, Chris Rolfe; Fabian Espindola, Eddie Johnson
Thanks around the table to Ben at Black and Red United and to all of you readers who keep this blog going.
Please be sure to check out my answers to their questions at Black and Red United:
How do you think FCD will fare in the District? Does Eddie Johnson have a go at his old team and teammate, OP? Do you think I should have asked more questions about Ben Olsen's sweater collection? Spill it in the comments.