Chris Rolfe (pictured) has played a key role in D.C. United's 2014 resurgence. (Photo: Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- D.C. United has reached the MLS season midpoint, erasing all fears that its current campaign might resemble the struggle of 2013.
A radically reconstructed roster boasting veterans like David Arnaud, Bobby Boswell, Fabian Espindola, Eddie Johnson and Chris Rolfe has already won four more matches and scored just as many goals as did last year’s squad the entire year.
Now comes the transition from hunter to hunted as one of the Eastern Conference leaders. A crowded second-half schedule with a roster featuring a handful of core players aged 30 or older will require a finely balanced approach.
“We’ve shown that we’re a capable team in this league, and we’re a team that’s capable of making playoffs,” said United head coach Ben Olsen, whose team will return later this summer to the CONCACAF Champions League for the first time since 2009/2010. “Now the tough part is the second half of the season. We’re not going to surprise anybody now because we have a little bit of respect from teams around the league.”
Numerous challenges continue to be addressed and overcome. United has been without key attacker Chris Pontius (hamstring surgery) for the entire season. Plus, what was shaping up as a career year for Espindola (seven goal, seight sassits) has been halted for possibly a couple months due to an MCL sprain suffered in Montreal on June 11.
Goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who in his previous four seasons with United has only been to the postseason once, says the mood around RFK Stadium has unquestionably improved in 2014.
“It’s a different buzz in the locker room, it’s a different vibe,” Hamid noted. “Mentally, you can tell that we’re there. We’re focused on the season, we’re focused on finding success for the club, and we’re taking it a day at a time now. And that’s always wonderful to see. You want to go into practice every day as focused as possible, and when you do that, the chips will fall into place.”
The 1998 CONCACAF club champion will open Champions League on August 20, when it hosts Jamaica’s Waterhouse FC.