D.C. United understands how to advance in the CONCACAF Champions League. United coach Ben Olsen guided his side to a perfect record during the 2014-15 edition of this tournament. His players maintained those standards by securing victories in their first two fixtures against Arabe Unido and Montego Bay United.
United hosts Arabe Unido at R.F.K. Stadium on Tuesday (live, 8:00p.m. ET, FS2, FOX Sports GO) in search of the result required to secure a berth in the last eight with one match to spare. The narrow 1-0 victory in Panama on Aug. 19 means United will advance with either a draw or a victory in this affair.
It is an ideal scenario for a United side trying to halt a domestic slide and finish in the top two in the Eastern Conference. United coach Ben Olsen is expected to field a reserve-laden side and trust his squad players to deliver against Arabe Unido once more.
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"It's all or nothing for them," United defender Luke Mishu told CONCACAF.com on Monday. "They can risk going for it and trying to get goals. I think it's really important for us to not come out on our back foot and really push back at them."
The circumstances require United to approach the task with its usual dose of pragmatism. There is a need to track the movement of Panama forward Abidel Arroyo at every turn and reduce the space afforded behind the line, but there is also a desire to procure the goal or two necessary to guarantee safe passage to the next round before the final Group G fixture at Montego Bay United next Tuesday.
Real Salt Lake prepare for novel test at Santa Tecla
Opportunity knocks for Real Salt Lake in El Salvador on Tuesday. Jeff Cassar and his players just have to figure out how to take it against unfamiliar opposition.
RSL coach Jeff Cassar said he plans to rotate his squad liberally ahead of the visit to Santa Tecla (live, 10:00p.m. ET, FOX Soccer Plus, FOX Soccer 2Go). Tony Beltran and Luke Mulholland could both feature after missing the 3-1 victory at Houston on Saturday through suspension, though Sebastian Jaime (birth of a child) and Jamison Olave (rested) are poised to miss out, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Cassar must strike the proper balance between searching for a critical result in Group G (RSL can take command of the group with a second away victory) and setting the stage for a final postseason push over the next few weeks.
"We're going to try to get as many new, fresh legs out on the field as possible," Cassar told realsaltlake.com after RSL's 3-1 win over Houston in league play on Saturday. "With that being said we know that a win down there can really put us into the driver's seat of the group, so we're taking the game extremely serious. We'll see how everyone recovers from this game, but we do have a game against LA [Galaxy] on Saturday at home."
The quest for points for both fronts complicates matters against the Salvadoran champions. One thing is certain, though: RSL must tread carefully to ensure this trek to Central American unfolds as well as the visit to Guatemala in August.
Whitecaps eye top spot in Group with victory over Olimpia
There is no margin for error in the Group of Death. Olimpia and Seattle Sounders reinforced the point with a pair of tight and tense affairs to bring the proceedings into stark relief. Vancouver watched from the sidelines as the encounters played out in late August and waited for a chance to benefit from the tumult.
The opportunity finally arrives at B.C. Place on Wednesday. Vancouver is in position to join Seattle on four points by taking the full complement of points against Olimpia. It is an opening the Whitecaps must take with two road matches ahead to close out group play.
Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson expects to make several changes to the side that defeated Colorado at B.C. Place last Wednesday, but he maintains the same sort of standards even as his squad players take their places.
"We need to bring a lot of energy to the game," Robinson told reporters on Monday. "It's an important game for us. We need to win our home games. We didn't win against Seattle in the first game. It's going to be a big game for us."
Olimpia poses a threat to procure a result even with captain Arnold Peralta ruled out through caution accumulation. Honduras forward Alberth Elis troubled Sounders FC in both legs with his direct running and his precision inside the penalty area. Vancouver must cut off his supply and navigate through the inevitable thicket of emotions in order to cinch the necessary result.
"They've got a tough mentality," Robinson said. "That's one thing you can say about the Honduran teams. We've got to be able to match that and, obviously, play our football at the same time."