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D.C. United refocuses ahead of game against New England

Sep 23, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; D.C. United midfielder Luciano Acosta (10) chases the ball against the San Jose Earthquakes during the second half at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON — D.C. United must go about business as usual as it looks to close out a long road trip against the New England Revolution Saturday in the second-to-last away game before the opening of Audi Field.

“This year, we are scoring goals. We have a system that now we are completely focused in on,” midfielder Paul Arriola said. “We are letting in goals, which is our downfall, but if we are able to score the amount of goals now and continue to do that at home, it is just a matter of time.”

D.C. United desperately needed another option at the forward position, someone who was a proven goalscorer. Cue England legend Wayne Rooney. United signed Rooney to a three-and-a-half year contract this week in hopes of finding a winning streak and boosting sales as the team finally gets its own soccer-specific stadium.

While excitement and criticism swirl around Rooney’s arrival, United still has to focus on the pitch. After a U.S. Open Cup loss to Orlando City SC, United players and staff took the following days to rejuvenate and rest.

“Those long road trips were a lot for the guys,” coach Ben Olsen said. “They did a great job for the last month-and-a-half of squeezing results in some tough areas.”

With fresh legs, United keeps its focus on New England. It will be steep climb out of last place in MLS for the Black-and-Red, which has just two wins this season. 

“They are recharged, and obviously there is some excitement with [Audi Field],” Olsen said. “We also understand we have great opportunities to pick up some points on the road.”

Where: Gillette Stadium –Foxborough

When: Saturday, June 30 at 7:30pm ET

Watch: ESPN+, News Channel 8

Predicted Starting XI: David Ousted; Oneil Fisher, Frédéric Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Jalen Robinson; Chris Durkin, Zoltan Stieber, Ian Harkes, Luciano Acosta, Yamil Asad; Darren Mattocks

Playing for starting positions

With the arrival of Rooney and players slowly returning from injury, the match against New England and the following trip to the LA Galaxy are the last few chances for players to prove they belong in the starting XI. 

Forward Darren Mattocks is in danger of losing his starting spot to Rooney despite his four-game scoring streak. Defensive midfielder Russell Canouse is finally looking healthy enough to play, but Chris Durkin has been doing well in that position. 

“We are pretty thin in that position. Durkin is coming along. We have a lot of faith in Junior, and Russell wants back in the line up,” Olsen said. “In the current formation that we are in, it really only allows for one, but that might give me some options to go into some different looks in different scenarios against different teams.”

Arriola Sidelined

Olsen shifted midfielder Paul Arriola centrally this season, and since the move he’s been a major part of United’s high press offense. Arriola has had a goal or assist in four of the last five matches for United. This week, Arriola joins a long list of United players sitting out due to injury.

Arriola has a minor injury to his groin. He will miss the match in New England and play it by ear for the match on July 4 against LA Galaxy as a precaution. 

“I am just being honest with myself and honest with the staff. I think I rest as much as I can leading into next week and see how I feel going into LA,” Arriola said. “Obviously, we have a lot of games to end the summer, and it is important to make sure that an injury that required me to rest two weeks doesn’t turn into two months.”

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