Thursday, March 7, 2013

DC United Hosts Home Opener Saturday

2011 MVP Dwayne De Rosario (r) will be M.I.A. on Saturday

DC United will be without 2011 MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario this Saturday night, when they host their home opener at RFK Stadium versus Real Salt Lake. De Rosario, who missed seven games last year due to an MCL injury, was suspended for the first two games of the 2013 regular season for administering a head-butt to Philadelphia Union midfielder Danny Cruz during a February 23rd pre-season game in Kissimmee, Florida. United (0-1) lost last Saturday's season opener to the Houston Dynamo 2-0, and will be looking to even their record in front of a vocal RFK crowd... one you could be a part of (click here for tickets.)

RFK Stadium has been a safe haven for DC United of late. Last year, they went an impressive 12-1-4 at home... and combine that, with Real Salt Lake's inability to win here (0-4-3 since joining the league in 2005) and you have all the makings for a big United victory.

Ben Olsen returns for his third season as head coach, and has to be excited about his team's late run into the playoffs last year (which ended in a conference finals loss to Houston.) Olsen has plenty of offensive talent to work with: In addition to De Rosario (who led the team with 12 assists, despite missing several games) United returns leading goal scorer Chris Pontius (12 goals) and talented midfielder Nick DeLeon (6 goals, 5 assists.) Gone are former designated players Branko Bošković and  Hamdi Salihi, as well as 2010 MLS Rookie of the Year Andy Najar who left to play in the Belgian Pro League. Bošković was a highly-paid bust, but DC should feel the loss of Salihi and Najar (especially Najar.)

At first glance, GM Dave Kasper didn't do much in the off-season: He added veterans James Riley and John Thorrington, as well as 2002 MLS MVP Carlos Ruiz. The ninth best all-time scorer in league history (and tops in the playoffs) is joining his fifth MLS team: Does the controversial 33-year-old forward have enough left in his tank to still make a difference? Time will tell. I like the mix of old and young in front of up-and-coming goalkeeper Bill Hamid.

Nothing quite matches watching the Black-and-Red duke it out with an opponent in venerable RFK Stadium. I can't help but feel nostalgic walking up East Capitol Street and thinking back on all those great games involving the Diplomats, Redskins, Nationals and for those old enough to remember... the Senators.

Click here for a full rundown of this year's schedule.