As the 25th MLS season kicks off, D.C. United hopes those still with the team will make their supporters forget about who are not.
United looks to get off to a strong start Saturday, when they host a confident Colorado Rapids side looking to avoid the same disastrous beginning they endured last season.
As D.C. United prepares to start a new season, it has said goodbye to former stalwarts Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta. United, fortunately, must also deal with a knee injury to Paul Arriola that could see the talented midfielder miss the entire season.
The good news for United, which finished a disappointing fifth in the Eastern Conference last season after entering 2019 as one of the title favorites, is that those new to fold have the potential to make an immediate impact. Julian Gressel scored a career-high eight goals for Atlanta United FC in 2019 and midfielder Edison Flores was paid handsomely to come over from Liga MX.
“We’re looking forward to it,” coach Ben Olsen told United’s official website to this weekend’s kickoff. “It’s never perfect the first month with everybody scratching for points with an imperfect team. We move on.”
While the goal for United might be to play more aggressively up front and on the wings, defense should obviously still be at the forefront. D.C.’s 38 goals conceded last season were the second-fewest in the league, however, it was pummeled 5-1 by eventual runner-up Toronto FC in the playoffs.
United has played relatively solid defense while conceding eight goals during its 5-0-4 stretch against Colorado. D.C.’s last league loss to the Rapids came on the road April 3, 2011.
Colorado, meanwhile, was one of the league’s worst defensive teams with 63 goals allowed during an overall rough 2019 campaign. The Rapids were essentially dead in the water following on 0-9-2 start that cost coach Anthony Hudson his job, but did manage to show life under new gaffer Robin Fraser, and won five of their final seven matches.
In an attempt to improve defensively, Colorado traded for Philadelphia defender Austin Trusty.
“The defending group is really making strides forward,” Fraser told the Rapids’ official website. “Everyday is an opportunity to learn.”
Meanwhile, veteran Kei Kamara (14 goals in 2019), Diego Rubio (11 goals), Andre Shinyashiki (seven goals) and Jonathan Lewis, along with the addition of talented Dutch playmaker Younes Namli, should provide consistent offense for the Rapids in 2020. Seven times last season the Rapids scored three or more goals.