Ahead of Saturday's pivotal Eastern Conference clash between the Crew and D.C. United, here a few things to get you acquainted with the Black & Gold's next opponent:
LIFE WITHOUT DERO
Since reigning MLS Most Valuable Player Dwayne De Rosario was ruled out for the remainder of the regular season after suffering an MCL sprain in Canada's World Cup Qualifier in Panama on September 11, D.C. United has been on a tear. The Black-and-Red have posted a 4-0-1 mark in the five matches since De Rosario's injury. Led by Chris Pontius' two goals and two assists in that span, others in the United lineup have stepped up in the Canadian International's absence.
"I think there is more responsibility for [D.C. United]'s other players," Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha explained. "I think that can only make a team better. They're not relying on only one guy. They're sharing the responsibility. They're winning as a team. That is why they are dangerous."
"[D.C. United] is playing more as a team," Defender Josh Williams added. "I think a lot of times, when an MVP candidate or star goes out, the team comes together. I think that's what is going on there. Other guys are stepping up and other guys are getting the ball. I think they're playing more as a team rather than trying to force it to DeRo. It seemed like they were trying to do that a little bit."
Before his injury, De Rosario tallied seven goals and 12 assists through 26 matches in 2012.
THREATS ON THE WING
Especially without De Rosario in a central attacking midfield role, D.C. United's attack thrives on the wing. United's likely starting wing tandem of Chris Pontius and Nick DeLeon have combined for 17 goals and eight assists this season. The last time the Crew met with the Black-and-Red, it was DeLeon setting up Pontius in the 1-0 United victory at RFK Stadium.
In a must-win game, Robert Warzycha will rely on steady performances from Josh Williams and Sebastián Miranda as his probable outside backs on Saturday.
"D.C. has very good wingers," Miranda said. "We will have to be very concentrated because we have to win. We have to win. We need the three points. Because if we don't win, maybe we're out of the playoffs. For us, this is the final. We can't make mistakes."
The Chilean continued, "In any moment we can score. We have to keep a zero in our goal, and the right back and left back have to work very hard because they have two wingers that are very good."
Additionally, Andy Najar and Chris Korb aid in the attack as they overlap from the United back line. The Crew will need to stay organized and compact in dealing with multiple threats on the flanks.
"We've got to stay compact and tight in the back, bring our midfielders back and make sure we're defending as a team," Williams explained. "Not only [Pontius and DeLeon], but [D.C. United] has Najar and Korb that like to get into the attack too as outside backs. We're definitely going to have to be sound defensively and communicate a lot to stay sharp."
For Williams and his teammates, cutting the supply line to the wings will be key.
"Those guys thrive off confidence," Williams said. "If you get them the ball and they start getting into the game, then those two are really a threat. We need to limit their touches as much as we can and not let get them into the game. Once they start rolling, they're really hard to defend."
BREAKING D.C.'S DEFENSE
Over its last five matches, D.C. United has allowed just two goals in the midst of its unbeaten run. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid has posted a 0.99 goals against average in 2012, third in MLS among 'keepers that have played in at least 15 matches this season.
Despite Hamid and the United defense's success this season, Warzycha feels his team will get its chances. It's just a matter of finishing them.
"[D.C. United] has a good [defensive] unit," the Crew skipper explained. "It doesn't mean they don't give up chances. The teams that they are playing against didn't finish [their chances]. I think we will get chances against D.C. and we have to make sure we finish our chances."