D.C. United can climb above the playoff line for the first time this season with a victory over Western Conference leaders FC Dallas on Saturday afternoon at Audi Field.
D.C. (11-11-8, 41 points) enters the weekend two points behind the sixth-place Montreal Impact with two matches in hand. And with Montreal idle until the following weekend due to a FIFA international window, United will make up both its games in hand in the next week, beginning with Saturday’s game against Dallas (16-6-9, 57 points).
Although D.C. may be missing a handful of players to international duty — most notably Venezuelan starting holding midfielder Junior Moreno — it approaches those matches on a season-long six-match unbeaten run. Most recently, it came from behind to secure a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire last Sunday on a pair of goals from Wayne Rooney.
“It is not what we want to do,” Rooney said afterward of giving up the first goal. “We knew the performance of today’s game and I think the character of the players to come from behind, it is easy to almost try and get the draw and you can see after we put the first goal in you can see the determination was to try and get the win and thankfully we did it.”
Overcoming a deficit may be harder against a Dallas side that itself is unbeaten in its last five, and is closing in on its third Western Conference regular season title in four seasons.
Coach Oscar Pareja has seen considerable defensive improvement of late from his team, which has already secured a postseason berth. Dallas has conceded only three goals during its unbeaten stretch and kept three clean sheets.
The visitors’ international absences Saturday will include American defender Reggie Cannon and Ecuadorian midfielder Carlos Gruezo. But they will still bring plenty of confidence in their ability to grind out results.
“When you have a team that can do the right things defensively then you can be very optimistic of their result knowing that we’re strong also with going forward,” Pareja said. “It’s good to see them getting the clean sheets, and getting the zero is important.”
—Field Level Media