United hoping to end five-game losing streak

D.C. United players haven't shirked responsibility for the five-game losing streak that has them at the bottom of the MLS standings. They know the challenge that lies ahead against the Houston Dynamo in a match that will test a primary weakness: defending set pieces. They also expect the return of two key injured players, one for the Dynamo match and the other in time to help when they travel to FC Dallas on Saturday.

The signs are the right ones. It's the actions that have to follow suit.

"It's about showing up and walking the walk, having a good start, being responsible on set pieces, seeing out the plays that matter," United coach Ben Olsen said. "You get your chance, you finish it. That's what it's about."

up next
Dynamo at United
When » Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Where » RFK Stadium

The addition of midfielder Nick DeLeon back in the lineup should help. Last year's finalist for MLS rookie of the year has only been able to watch during United's current slide, having strained his right hamstring in the 2-1 defeat to Columbus on March 23 that started the swoon. DeLeon isn't fit enough to start but will provide an upgrade to Olsen's options off the bench.

Midfielder Chris Pontius, who missed the last game with a left groin injury, also practiced without complications Tuesday and expects to be ready for the weekend. Last fall he aggravated a right groin injury in the first leg of last year's Eastern Conference finals in Houston and was forced to leave the game in the 12th minute. He didn't play in the second leg as United lost the series.

"I wanted to be in that game so bad," Pontius said. "But for the long term, it was a very stupid call on my part. So this one I'm being much more careful with."

While United (1-6-1, 4 points) hasn't played since April 27, the Dynamo (5-2-2, 17 points) had to travel cross-country after beating the Los Angeles Galaxy on the road late Sunday night.

But they're 13-4-3 against United all-time and unbeaten in the last five -- including playoffs -- and no less formidable on short rest. Olsen noted that seven of the 13 goals D.C. United has allowed this season have come on restarts. The Dynamo own one of the league's best free specialists in Brad Davis.

"It's been mistakes on the first one [kick]. It's been mistakes on the second bites [rebounds]," Olsen said. "Teams have been a little bit hungrier than we've been. We've been outmanned. It seems like a lot of times, they just want it more."

Defender Brandon McDonald blamed himself for all three goals scored by the Columbus Crew in United's most recent 3-0 defeat, mistakes that he said haven't affected the team's mentality.

"I don't think we really needed to change much from Columbus besides those three goals I let in myself," McDonald said. "We have a good group of guys in this locker room. We all believe, and I think even teams around the league know we're not as bad as our record indicates. ... We have a lot of good guys on this team with strong will so I think we're on the verge of snapping out of it."