D.C. United fans are hoping a breath of Rocky Mountain air can help their side return to winning ways and find the back of the net once again on Saturday. There’s perhaps no better side to do it against, as the Colorado Rapids have conceded the most goals in MLS thus far (16). First kick is set for 9:00 PM ET, and the match will be broadcast right here on FloFC.
The Black-and-Red are looking to secure their second consecutive result on the road, after downing Orlando City two weeks ago, their first away victory since May of 2018. Saturday’s fixture offers the first chance to put away a Western Conference opponent away from Audi Field in 2019 and also Wayne Rooney’s first trip west since arriving last summer.
The biggest questions for United pertain to outside backs and whether or not Rooney will be fit to start. Rooney was suspended for Tuesday's game against the Montreal Impact, but was absent from attendance due to an illness. The 33-year-old missed training with flu-like symptoms, but he was cleared to make the trip to Commerce City.
Joseph Mora remains sidelined with a fractured jaw, while Chris McCann and Leonardo Jara both picked up knocks in the scoreless draw against Montreal during the week. McCann will be sidelined for a couple of weeks with a hamstring strain, while Jara's status is unclear, as he is dealing with a right shoulder that popped in and out of place.
To make up the numbers in the squad, a handful of youngsters have been brought along for the trip to Colorado. Rookie homegrown player Donovan Pines has been on the bench for the past two games, and was joined by fellow rookie Akeem Ward on Tuesday. They will be accompanied by Griffin Yow, the 16-year-old midfielder who signed as homegrown last month, making his first appearance on the bench for the Black-and-Red.
All three had played the first three games for Loudoun United, but will miss the USL side's trip to Canada against the Ottawa Fury while with the first team.
These three first-year professionals and fine young men at the end of training today and travelling for the first time ever with @dcunited in #mls for the game against @ColoradoRapids - Donovan Pines, @akeemjward and 16-year old @griffin_yow.#dcu pic.twitter.com/hNCkzkYRVO— Chris Hull (@mrchrishull) April 12, 2019
Meanwhile, The Rapids have yet to produce a win in 2019 and are currently 10th in the Western Conference with a paltry two points. Colorado originally had a game scheduled for Wednesday night, which would have given them one fewer day of recovery compared to United. However, that tilt against the Seattle Sounders was called off due to a snow storm.
Although they’ve yet to produce a win or even a point away from home, a bright spot for the Rapids has been their ability to find the back of the net in every game but one. Veteran striker Kei Kamara has been arguably the best player so far and leads the attack with three goals to his name, but six different players have been on the score sheet. There are several weapons for a makeshift D.C. back line to be wary of, including Benny Feilhaber, Kellyn Acosta, and Diego Rubio.
Last year, Rooney’s first tally in MLS came against none other than Rapids goalkeeper and former Manchester United teammate Tim Howard in July. Lucho Acosta played a clever through ball to the Englishman, which he used to hit an angled drive through the wickets and into Howard’s net.
ICYMI: Wayne Rooney's first career MLS goal came against former Man United teammate Tim Howard. pic.twitter.com/AjnuKQ3vKL— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 29, 2018
Colorado’s Acosta found an equalizer in the 82nd minute, but the teams’ only meeting in 2018 ended in a 2-1 win for D.C., thanks to a Niki Jackson own goal at the death.
Any road affair in MLS has its own of difficulties to overcome, but Saturday’s could be a particularly frustrating day for United. No team commits more fouls per game than the Rapids (15.2), so Olsen’s men will have to play with plenty of patience and resolve if they are to escape with a result while avoiding any extracurriculars.
Predicted D.C. United XI: Bill Hamid, Jalen Robinson, Steven Birnbaum, Frederic Brillant, Paul Arriola, Junior Moreno, Russell Canouse, Lucas Rodriguez, Luciano Acosta, Ulises Segura, Wayne Rooney