The LA Galaxy are facing DC in their only regular season fixture this season this evening. Originally a March fixture, it was moved to August due to CONCACAF Champions League concerns. Now its a compelling matchup of east-west powers, and we've got some questions for Ben Bromley of Black and Red United to see what's been going on over there along the rivers that George Washington crossed.
1) DC is having its second righteous season in three years. Was 2013 just a blip? DC just play better in even years? What is going right over there in the shadow of our nation's capital?
The 2012 season was the result of two offseasons worth of rebuilding, with players like Dwayne De Rosario, Robbie Russell, Danny Cruz, Brandon McDonald, and Josh Wolff all coming to the team and Ben Olsen developing as a coach. Both seasons were also primarily crafted by Kevin Payne, who left the team in November of 2012. In that same offseason, United decided to stand pat with the team that they had, and not make any major additions, and we all know how that went; MLS is getting better too quickly for any team but the best teams to stay the same from year to year.
This past offseason, United decided to again add proven MLS veterans around their core of young American players, bringing in Eddie Johnson, Fabian Espindola, Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Davy Arnaud, and Chris Rolfe. With the right players for his system, and another year of experience as a head coach, Ben Olsen has stepped up his game as well this season (and Bruce Arena thinks he can still grow as a coach).
2) DC's back line has some old Galaxy friends in Sean Franklin and Kofi Opare. How are they getting on in Washington? Will we see both starting on Wednesday?
Sean Franklin has been a mainstay for United at right back, which has been necessary because of United's revolving door of left backs so far this season. His defense has been solid and he has been getting himself into good positions in the attacking third, though his finishing has been poor the past few games. Kofi Opare has played only one game so far for D.C. United, starting and playing well in the Concacaf Champions League win over Waterhouse FC.
With the schedule congestion of August and September, he should play a few more games, but will probably start this game on the bench behind Bobby Boswell and Steve Birnbaum; however, the idea of a Birnbaum-Opare center back pairing for years to come entices United fans.
3) This is the only regular season matchup for these sides and a makeup game for a March rescheduling. Things have changed since then, and I don't know if you heard but Landon Donovan is retiring. If it were taking place at that red doughnut by the Anacostia River, what gift would DC management bestow up America's hero?
Sean Franklin and Ben Olsen will actually be presenting Donovan with some sort of gift at this game; the gift was apparently provided by Events DC, the people who own and "maintain" RFK Stadium. My guess would be that the gift will be something special, such as a live raccoon, a broken chair, a wasps nest, a pile of rust, or one of the many other fine mementos that dot the stadium.
Bonus: If DC Untied were giving out an award for Best Supporting Actor, who would win? Who is the best at supporting the best?
If Fabian Espindola is D.C. United's Best Actor, then Chris Rolfe would have to be the Best Supporting Actor. Getting Rolfe from the Chicago Fire really helped turn the season around after a slow start, alongside with the move of Davy Arnaud into central midfield. The fact that all United have to give up was allocation money made the deal even sweeter. When Fabian Espindola went out injured, it was Rolfe who gave the team the creative spark needed to continue to play well, and the return of Espindola makes them even more potent together.