D.C. United walked off Audi Field late on Sunday night after grinding out a 1-0 victory over visiting Sporting Kansas City. It was the team's second win in a row, a hard-earned victory thanks to a great goal from Paul Arriola. But there was hardly anytime to relish in the victory, or even take a look back at what might have worked or not worked over 90 minutes, as United had to ensure they were ready for their next game, a quick turnaround for a Wednesday night trip to face Toronto FC.
And if that wasn't enough, on the other side of the game in Canada, there's an excursion to Texas waiting for a game on Saturday, another quick turnaround, against the Houston Dynamo.
"It’s hard to put much thought into yesterday’s game today," United head coach Ben Olsen told FloFC on Monday, "because we have a game coming up, and we have a long week of preparation, and how to go about this in the best way. That’s where our thoughts are right now."
With the MLS playoffs beginning a month earlier this year and with an upcoming break for the Concacaf Gold Cup in June, there will be more times during the course of the season that teams will have to play three games in the course of a week. It's just the reality of the situation in the U.S. and Canada, where play can't begin much earlier than March because of weather conditions in northern cities.
But United have a bit of a gripe this week, given that they had to play on Sunday night, leaving them with just two days in between games on both Wednesday and Saturday. A Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday slate would have been a bit more forgiving for the Black-and-Red.
"The schedule doesn’t help us at all," midfielder Russell Canouse said after the team's light practice on Monday. "We have to do everything recovery-wise to prepare."
The team is taking a number of steps to combat the quick turnaround. On Monday, while players who didn't start against SKC went through some drills, the starters did some stretching, before hitting the cryogenic chamber at the St. James facility in Springfield, Virginia. The team will closely monitor energy levels, making sure that they put out a group that will be ready to go on Wednesday night against the Reds.
"You want to keep rolling, you want to keep putting your best foot forward in every game," Olsen said. "But you have to be smart about how you do it."
Waiting for United first this week is a TFC side that has had a solid start to the season after getting bounced early in the Champions League. Sebastian Giovinco departed, but in March Alejandro Pozuelo took his spot and has notched five goals and six assists in his first eight games in the league.
There are differences between how the two operate, but Pozuelo, especially when paired with a healthy Jozy Altidore, has bean able to guide Toronto to a solid start to the season a year after the team missed the playoffs.
"Pozuelo gives them a different dynamic. Similar to Giovinco, but more of a threat from a service standpoint," Olsen said of the Spanish playmaker. "Not as scary in the 1v1 situations, but the quality is serious.
"And Jozy comes back, and we expect him to start. Those two, when they play together, it’s a very good duo and an effective team up top for them."
But while Toronto will feel confident at home against the Black-and-Red, D.C. have their own reasons to think they can get a result on Wednesday night. United have won three of their first five games away from the District so far this year, and two wins in their last two games has restored a bit of confidence in the group after an up-and-down April.
"I think we can go there and get a result," Canouse said. "Toronto has been playing well, but we need to remember we have confidence. Hopefully we can carry that into Toronto."