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Crew-United Preview

By JOSH SCHUR

STATS Writer

(AP) -- Chris Pontius showed off his vast potential with a goal in the MLS All-Star game against Chelsea.

Teammate Dwayne De Rosario was the one who set Pontius up for the strike.

D.C. United is hoping for a repeat performance from that All-Star duo Saturday when they host the Columbus Crew.

United (10-7-3) went into the All-Star break fourth overall in the Eastern Conference after losing their last two league games by a combined 5-0.

De Rosario converted a first-half penalty to give D.C. a 1-all draw with French power Paris Saint-Germain in a friendly last Saturday, but coach Ben Olsen knows his team has plenty of work to do if it plans on challenging for the East's top spot.

"My mind's on Columbus," Olsen said. "Our guys hopefully aren't too happy with themselves and continue moving forward in this league. I believe in this group."

Olsen certainly has reason to believe in his team's two offensive stars. De Rosario has five goals and is among the league's assist leaders with 10, while Pontius is tied for sixth in the league with nine goals - four in his past five games.

That total doesn't include the one he scored against Chelsea - on a sharp feed from De Rosario - in the July 25 All-Star game as the MLS won 3-2. Pontius, who's shown little signs of wear and tear after sustaining a season-ending broken leg in September, was named the game's MVP.

"I didn't think I would be here, to be honest with you, not with the way everything went," he said.

The Crew (8-7-4) are looking to build on a two-game winning streak and start their push for a fifth straight playoff appearance. They're currently five points behind United, but no team has more games remaining than Columbus.

The Crew will attempt to use a defensive strategy that prevailed in their 1-0 home win over D.C. on July 21. Chris Birchall scored just after halftime.

Keying on Pontius and De Rosario with physical defending will again be one of the main goals for Columbus.

"We always talk before the games about key players - the ones we really, really have to pay attention to. We did a good job on De Rosario and we did a good job on Maicon Santos and Pontius as well," coach Robert Warzycha told the team's official website after last month's win.

Columbus has allowed a league-low 20 goals, but it had issues on the back end in its last trip to the nation's capital - a 3-1 loss March 19, 2011.

The Crew will be without central midfielder Cole Grossman, who is suspended after picking up a red card in last Saturday's 2-1 win at Kansas City. Columbus is 3-0-0 when Grossman has started this season.

Still, Warzycha seems optimistic with the depth remaining at that position.

"Competition is always good," Warzycha told the team's official website. "Obviously, we have so many guys in that position. You're not going to have happy campers, but I think the competition is going to make them better and will make them want it more. They're going to get better."

Columbus has won four of the last five games in this series and is 7-2-1 in the last 10.

Updated August 3, 2012

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