WASHINGTON, D.C.–Last time D.C. United faced off against Orlando City SC, United was at a crucial turning point.
In the dog days of the 2018 season, United beat Orlando 3-2 thanks to a miraculous stoppage time run from Wayne Rooney and a hat trick from Luciano Acosta. It was exactly what United needed.
United appears to continue building off that momentum in 2019 starting (2-0-1) after beating Atlanta United in the season opener and crushing Real Salt Lake 5-0 before the early international break last week.
“It was a great break,” coach Ben Olsen said. “It was a little odd having the early bye week, but we are healthy.”
United played through international breaks last year with a compact schedule after the opening of Audi Field. This season, they got an early break before two months of back-to-back games.
“We are used to it,” Olsen said. “Throughout the year, we have these international windows where you get to step away. I think we will be better for it. It is nice that we have a lot of guys playing through the break.”
Midfielder Paul Arriola joined the United States men’s national team at the senior level, while defender Donovan Pines joined the U-23s and midfielder Chris Durkin joined the U-20s. Midfielder Junior Moreno received a call-up to the Venezuelan national team.
#DCU represented in three age groups leading up to major international competitions coming in the next two years. #U20 – Midfielder Chris Durkin #U23 – Defender Donovan Pines#USMNT – Midfielder Paul Arriola https://t.co/ZJ83yyQlOB
— Emily Olsen (@EmilyTOlsen) March 19, 2019
The week, leading up to Sunday’s match against Orlando, was a chance for non-starters to get some serious minutes in training as United prepares for a long stretch of games. On Tuesday, center back Jalen Robinson was paired with Frédéric Brillant in short-sided games.
“It is important for the guys that haven’t had a lot of minutes, who are probably a little frustrated that they haven’t seen the time, to stay in and see that they are a big piece,” Olsen said. “Ultimately they need to see the field to see that. They need to stay engaged because we need a good 18 to 19 players over the next two weeks to be successful.”
Meanwhile, Orlando City picked up its first win over the international break against the New York Red Bulls. After going winless in its first three matches, Orlando forward Nani–who was once Manchester United teammates with Wayne Rooney–called a players-only meeting. The result was a hard-fought 1-0 win against New York.
“After the old ‘come to Jesus’ meeting?” Olsen said when asked about concerns facing the energized Orlando side. “I have seen them work. I have seen them not work.”
“[Orlando was] in a spot where they think they needed a chat, and it obviously worked,” Olsen said. “We are not too concerned about their form as much as we are on just getting back to work and making sure we are ready to play a game that is going to be difficult game in a difficult place to play.”
When: March 31, 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Where: Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, FL.