D.C. United are enduring a struggle of a season here, and their performances the last two weeks have been awful teases—just good enough to not look terrible, just bad enough to not win.
In the Portland Timbers, United face the current MLS champions, but those champions have also traveled across the country and haven't been particularly good on the road this year. Is this the moment for the Black-and-Red?
Somehow, we're still generally optimistic about our team's chances.
The defending champs roll into town and they meet a Black-and-Red squad that is desperate for a win in this homestand. There have been times over the past few games where United has looked lost on the field and there have been flashes of the great play they need. On the other side, Diego Valeri has played like a MVP and kept Portland in the hunt for the playoffs. I think the string of draws continue. Lucho Acosta matches an early Valeri strike and United ends with the 1-1 draw and still searching for the answer to the question of how they find the points needed to get into the playoffs.
Going up against the defending champions is never an easy task, even if those champs haven't won a game away from their home all season. Combine that fact with D.C. United's desperation and I think they somehow squeak out a win (even though I've been predicting that for weeks). Give me a 2-1 D.C. United win, with Steve Birnbaum going two in a row and Patrick Mullins sealing the deal.
Midway through this 4-game homestand, United have looked like the better team in long stretches of both games, and against a couple pretty skillful teams to boot. But, plagued by poor finishing, they've had to settle for draws in both. This game fits that exact pattern, the Black-and-Red embracing the wrong kind of consistency at the wrong time of year. United pressure Portland into mistakes early, but leave them unpunished, allowing MVP candidate Diego Valeri to strike just before halftime. United reprise their early pressure after the break and make it pay this time -- the equalizer coming from Patrick Mullins, with Luciano Acosta assisting. Despite a ton of chances in the late stages (for both teams), we're left kissing our proverbial sibling for the third game running: 1-1 draw.
Portland is missing key defensive midfielder Diego Chara (suspension) as well as Ben Zemanski (injury), who has been his partner for a couple months now. If they move Darlington Nagbe back alongside last man standing Jack Jewsbury, they'll be short on the flanks (more injuries). Throw in the cross-country trip and sweltering conditions, and this game is not promising for a Timbers side with a 0W-6D-5L road record. United should go after this game with gusto as a result of all that, rather than playing with fear of Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi. I think we see United finally do what they've been close to doing in two straight games: A goal before halftime for Lloyd Sam (set up by Lucho Acosta), and then the crucial second from Patrick Mullins (on another Acosta assist). Portland grabs one back from Adi, but it's late and United hangs on. 2-1. Stay hydrated, fam.
Yeah, so I'm done predicting wins for this team, at least for the time being. Maybe the third time's the charm and United do actually capitalize on their non-terribleness this week, but guys, my optimism is waning here. That said, I do think that the Black-and-Red can get a result against Portland, and I'll say it's in the form of a 1-1 draw. Patrick Mullins scores for DCU.
I don't know what to think about this game. It feels a bit like the resistable force vs. the movable object. Portland is beset by injuries and flying across the country, so they should be vulnerable. Meanwhile, D.C. United, based on recent results, is incapable of taking advantage of a vulnerable team. Throw in the wilting heat of an early August night in the District, and I see a 0-0 draw. Prove me wrong.
Well, are we wrong? Let us know your predictions in the comments.