After claiming their third home victory of the season last Sunday, Vancouver Whitecaps FC must now focus their attention of accomplishing their next mission - a first road win in Major League Soccer history - when they visit D.C. United this weekend.
If Vancouver's recent road result against San Jose Earthquakes is any indication of a season-long development process coming full circle, the 'Caps may be facing the perfect opponent on Saturday to make a dynamic statement about their learning curve evolvement.
Playing against the most decorated franchise in MLS history, D.C. United’s successes both domestically and internationally have become the visionary plan for establishing a winning culture by many soccer clubs in North America. While the ‘Red and Black’ do not possess the reputation for ‘stardom’ like New York Red Bulls or ‘Hollywood’ fame like LA Galaxy, D.C. United have established their own identity throughout their progression as a club - 'prestige'.
After entering MLS as one of the league's ten original expansion franchises, United quickly set the tone for success, as they claimed their first MLS Cup in 1996 alongside the 1996 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup title in their inaugural season. In all, United have won four MLS Cup titles (1996, 1997, 1999, and 2004) and four MLS Supporters’ Shield titles (1997, 1999, 2006, and 2007). They have also claimed the MLS Eastern Conference title five times (1997, 1988, 1999, 2006, and 2007) and have twice captured the US Open Cup (1996 and 2008). Along the way, D.C. also won the 1998 CONCACAF Champions' Cup and 1998 Copa Interamericana for a total of 12 domestic and international titles.
Currently, United sit sixth in the MLS Eastern Conference standings and in 12th position in the league's playoff table - two points back of Chivas USA with two matches in hand. However, with their recent addition of former New York Red Bulls and Canadian international midfielder Dwayne De Resario back on June 27, ‘DeRo’ has reignited United’s hopes of a possible playoff run after being named MLS Player of the Week for his performances the past two weeks. Throughout his first six United appearances, De Rosario has scored six times, including a heroic hat-trick against his former club Toronto FC last Saturday. With De Resario appearing to be warming up for the final stretch, the versatile attacker might almost appear destined to lead the District of Columbia outfit back to glory.
While United continue to wait on decisions relating to their local, soccer-specific stadium, Whitecaps FC enter Saturday evening's match at the perfect time. With RFK Stadium failing to offer the luxury and support a home stadium is supposed to provide, D.C. will look to improve on their 2W-3L-6D home record, as they struggle through a seven-match home winless streak. In fact, United have preferred to play away from RFK this season after collecting 15 of a possible 30 points on the road.
But it may be Whitecaps FC head coach Tom Soehn who can make the biggest difference this weekend. After coaching United from 2007 to 2009, Soehn will look to use his expertise against his former side to Whitecaps FC's advantage. And with another road match against fellow 2011 MLS expansion side Portland Timbers the following weekend, a victory against the 'prestigious' United would have them feeling exalted.