WASHINGTON, D.C.–Eyeing the midway point of the 2019 Major League Soccer season, D.C. United finds itself managing tough scheduling, injuries and suspension.
“It is important for us in the next two weeks that we are physically and mentally at our best so we can finish this portion of the season in the right way before the Gold Cup break,” coach Ben Olsen said.
United secured four points from three games in a seven day span, including two road games, but the team left Houston Saturday feeling frustrated after a 2-1 loss. The team heads north this weekend for an MLS-originals matchup against the New England Revolution.
“We are disappointed with the Houston result. We thought we were set up to have more success than we did,” Olsen said. “But if I look at it more on a bigger scale or a bigger time frame of going back a month of injuries and suspensions and some tough scheduling, I think we did ok.”
The biggest loss from the trip came when midfielder Paul Arriola received a red card for a foul on Houston Dynamo defender Adam Lundqvist.
“I am frustrated that we are not going to have him. It is a little bit undisciplined on his part, that doesn’t help the team, but we have all had moments where we are not at our best on the field, including myself,” Olsen said. “We will have some guys ready to take his place, and hopefully we can get it done this week.”
The MLS Disciplinary Committee issued an additional game suspension on top of the initial one-game suspension, as well as an undisclosed fine to the midfielder for violent conduct.
“The foul comes after me getting the ball and constantly being a physical game between us and Houston and the physicality and the frustration of being down 2-1. It was just a combination of everything,” Arriola said before the additional suspension. “I don’t have any argument. I understand it could go both ways, and I have to pay the consequences on a dumb play.”
Because Arriola’s suspension only applies to league games, the winger was able to get minutes in United’s midweek friendly against La Liga side Real Betis. United fell to Betis 5-2 Wednesday, but players like Arriola, midfielder Junior Moreno, defender Chris Odoi-Atsem and forward Griffin Yow got key minutes. Moreno returned to training this week after traveling to South America for his father’s funeral. He will be available this weekend.
“The game comes at a good time for Junior,” Olsen said. “It allows him to get back into the game without the intensity of an MLS game. We [used the friendly] as a tough training session for him in prep for the New England game.”
Odoi-Atsem started his first senior team appearance since March 24, 2018, while the rookie, Yow, scored his first professional goal. Both players traveled with the the team to New England.
— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) May 24, 2019
Up north, the Revs have been navigating through their own bumpy season. After a dismal start, the Revolution parted ways with second-year coach Brad Friedel and general manager Mike Burns, and appointed the godfather of MLS, Bruce Arena, to the role of Sporting Director and Head Coach.
Arena has not yet assumed his role on the sideline. Interim coach Mike Lapper will man the bench for at least one more game. Although he may not be field-level, Arena has already made an impact. He has even enlisted help from within the United organization.
After just nine games as head coach of United’s USL affiliate Loudoun United, coach Richie Williams is reportedly joining Arena’s staff in New England. The club would not comment on the reports at this time as the move is not official.
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Gillette Stadium — Foxborough, Mass.
Streaming: FloSports or ESPN+