With the game against DC United coming up on Sunday, I got with Martin from our excellent DC United blog Black And Red United to ask some questions about our upcoming opponent. My answers to his questions can be found on the blog, the answers that he provided to me about his team are below.
UZ: D.C. United are a tough team to read, we can tell they're a better team than last year but it looked like two different squads against Columbus and New England. Which team do you think is more representative of the 'real' D.C. United this year? The one that dismantled the weak Crew or looked less than spectacular against the Revs?
Martin: It's probably somewhere in the middle. The team definitely fed off the crowd in the home opener, which was the most celebratory and exhilarating atmosphere I've seen at RFK Stadium in years. That energy wasn't there in New England last week, and United had no real shot at recovering after going down two goals in the first 17 minutes due to two poor calls (one un-whistled hand ball, and one weak penalty) against a Revolution team that is more than happy to bunker. United is still finding itself, and with so much youth on the roster, there are bound to be good days and bad days throughout the season.
UZ: In a fairly weak Eastern conference what do you think it's going to take to get this 'new look' United team into the playoffs?
Martin: I expect D.C. United to be one of the three strongest teams in the Eastern Conference at the end of the season. They've got the talent and the depth to do it. But I worry that it might take Ben Olsen a month or two to figure out his best starting lineup and how to use each player's talents effectively. I went into the season thinking that United would drop a few winnable games early in the year, but get better as 2011 grows older. So I just hope that they're not too far behind teams like the Union and Fire who seem to be surprisingly better than anticipated.
Martin: There's a few. We're still waiting to see the Joseph Ngwenya that led United in scoring the preseason. Third-year midfielder Chris Pontius is also looking feisty and could start to break out again after missing most of 2010 due to injury. Also, watch for Uruguayan defender Rodrigo Brasesco on dead-ball opportunities. He's been known to be lethal with his head.