Rapids-United Preview

The Associated Press

D.C. United is in pursuit of the top spot in the Eastern Conference but likely needs to quickly snap out of its funk with a tough upcoming schedule.

United tries to avoid a season-high third straight loss and deal the visiting Colorado Rapids a fourth consecutive defeat Sunday night.

D.C. (11-7-4) outscored opponents 10-3 while winning all four of its matches in July but has failed to score in August, losing 1-0 at Houston on Aug. 3 and 3-0 to Real Salt Lake last Saturday. The club had lost just three of its previous 18 games.

United will visit Sporting Kansas City in a matchup of the East's top teams next Saturday before another road contest against Los Angeles on Aug. 27. They'll also face Waterhouse FC in CONCACAF Champions League play on Wednesday.

"We've got a hell of schedule coming up. We've just got to make sure, as much as (the loss to RSL) hurts, we've got to try and put this one behind us very, very quickly," midfielder Lewis Neal said. "Move on to the home game against Colorado, and we play Champions League midweek and we've got to make sure we're back firing on all cylinders because we've got a very, very tough road trip. It's going to be a difficult period for us."

Leading scorer Fabian Espindola returned against Salt Lake after a six-game absence due to a knee injury, coming on as a substitute in the second half. He could be in the starting lineup for this contest, as fellow forward Eddie Johnson has been suspended for two matches after kicking the ball at RSL defender Carlos Slacado.

"To put his team at risk, it's not good enough," coach Ben Olsen said. "We'll adjust - this isn't the first time I've had to adjust."

Colorado (8-9-6) may be looking to change things up after falling 3-1 to FC Dallas last Saturday for its third straight defeat. Gabriel Torres converted a penalty kick to snap a 282-minute scoreless drought.

The Rapids, who have conceded seven goals during their skid, are chasing Vancouver for the West's final playoff spot.

"I think we were our biggest enemies," coach Pablo Mastroeni said. "It comes down to concentration and focus. You've got to want to do anything you can. Right now, (the opponent scores) once and our hearts go down. This is a learning experience and one that we've got to fix."

Colorado is in a stretch of playing four of five matches on the road, where it must improve if it plans to make the postseason. The Rapids are 0-6-2 away from home since they won at Toronto on April 12.

"Everybody, myself included, first and foremost, needs to go take a good, long hard look at ourselves in the mirror and ask if we're giving enough for this team," defender Drew Moor said. "Right now, I'm not, and I don't think anybody else in there would say they are, either."

Colorado is 3-12-5 all-time in D.C. while being outscored 41-18.

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