By AVI CREDITOR
The unusually hot D.C. summer has made for superb preparation conditions for D.C. United's second trip to Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium.
With temperatures regularly creeping into the triple digits in the nation's capital over the past number of weeks, D.C. is better equipped for the notorious Houston humidity that has lended the nickname of "The Oven" to the Dynamo's new park.
"We're trying to get prepared for the weekend, and the sun really helps that," said former Dynamo and current D.C. winger Danny Cruz. "The hotter it is, the more used to it we'll be. Last time, the heat hit us a little quicker. It was cold here at that point. We're definitely ready for it."
Houston won that May 12 meeting 1-0 on a 67th-minute blast by Brad Davis at a time when fatigue began to settle in for the visitors. D.C. players and coaches alluded to that in postgame comments, and they're not the only ones to fall victim to the playing conditions. Visiting teams are 0-4-3 in Houston this season.
"I know I was hurting," D.C. right back Robbie Russell said. "The weather here in D.C. has been a little unusual to say the least, but it's been good in terms of getting us prepared for that kind of humidity and that kind of heat. It's an important game for us."
D.C. leads Houston by eight points in the Eastern Conference standings but has never won in Houston since the Dynamo franchise relocated from San Jose, going 0-6-1 in league games there since 2006. After a couple of weeks off, training in ideal conditions for this specific match and with having a later start time for Sunday's game (8 p.m. local time), perhaps this weekend is when that streak comes to an end.
"We're on an even playing field as far as going there if it is a hot day. (Last game) it did catch us. From the outside looking in, it looked like we just wilted," D.C. coach Ben Olsen said. "We realize we haven't won there, and we're looking to get that off our back. Sometimes when you have a big challenge like that it really galvanizes the group."
Here are more notes from D.C.:
OFF-FIELD ISSUES SUBSIDE
With Branko Boskovic's contract situation taken care of and new ownership partners Erick Thohir and Jason Levien being introduced this week, D.C.'s focus can shift solely to on-field matters, with the major off-field issues no longer lingering.
"It's time to kind of push," Cruz said. "We're obviously all happy to have Branko here. He's a big piece of things. With ownership, it's pretty special. It's behind us, and we're all pushing toward the playoffs hopefully."
The on-going stadium search will continue to go on in the background, with Thohir and Levien integrating themselves into the discussions. With the added personnel and financial clout behind the club's effort, the aura of optimism is not lost on Olsen, whose D.C. United days date back to 1998.
"This is my club," Olsen said. "Anytime we, as a club, get to move forward in any way I'm front-and-center cheering. This club has meant a lot to me and did me good for a long time, so I'm pumped about the whole situation."
DERO HEADS TO THE ESPYS
Dwayne De Rosario was away from the team for a couple of days, attending the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles as one of the nominees for MLS Player of the Year. The reigning league MVP lost out to David Beckham (San Jose's Chris Wondolowski and Houston's Davis were the other nominees) in the fan-voted category but was still part of the festivities.
For Beckham, it marks the second time winning the award. He did so in 2008 as well. De Rosario was aiming to end the Los Angeles Galaxy's streak of winning the award in every year since its inception in 2006. Landon Donovan won it in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
The trip won't cost De Rosario any gametime with the club, as he is expected to return to D.C. Thursday night ahead of the team's trip to Houston, according to a team spokesman.
OLSEN'S ALL-STAR DECISIONS LOOM
Olsen has All-Star Game matters to tend to as coach of the MLS side that will play Chelsea at PPL Park on July 25. His gameday roster is due in the coming days, but he has his priorities set on guiding D.C. into Houston slotted ahead of selecting his All-Star team.
"It hasn't been too consuming (of a process)," Olsen said. "I'm trying to put everything I have into Houston this weekend. There'll probably be a couple voicemails (telling me) to hurry me up. I keep trying to slip my name in there."
Olsen's gameday roster and commissioner Don Garber's two selections will be announced Sunday at halftime of the nationally televised match between the New York Red Bulls and Seattle Sounders (4 p.m., ESPN), prior to when D.C. takes to the field against the Dynamo.