Know Your Enemy: DC United
OTF’s Stephen Mangat drives whatever speed he wants on the highway to the danger zone…
Somebody not that important once said, “Everybody’s constantly being destroyed and rebuilding themselves, some more drastically than others.” DC United fall into the “more drastically” category because after winning three games last season, they needed to go (and did go) back to the drawing board for this season. Several new, well-known faces came to United in the offseason, though not much has changed since they are sans points and goals in 2014. So it’s a perfect time for the Fire to drop some drastic destruction on the nation’s capital.
PLAY OUR NEW MUSIC FOR THIS SEASON!!!
This season’s DC United is more conventional than past versions. Without wildcards like Chris Pontius (still on the team, but hurt), Dwayne DeRosario, Andy Najar, and Branko Boskovic, head coach Ben Olsen has to play it straight. It’s a 4-1-3-2 with Perry Kitchen in front of the back four. One thing to watch out for is the spacing of the two forwards: Fabian Espindola and Eddie Johnson. They both like running into space (with or without the ball) and tend to start wide and drive inside. If Chicago is lucky, EJ and Fabi will be too far from one another to combine well, and the DC attack will remain be impotent.
Bill Hamid is in goal and everyone should know his deal: great shot-stopper and athlete, not-so-great at positioning and makes bad mistakes at times. Continuing last week’s FIFA 2014-based evaluations of goalies, know that Hamid rates a 70 in diving, 71 in handling, 51 in kicking, 58 in positioning and 72 in reflexes.
Separately, the center backs Bobby Boswell and Jeff Parke are two very solid, veteran defenders who would start for most teams. Together, they’re a bad combo since they’re far too similar – big and physical but with suspect speed and skills. Sean Franklin, last of LA Galaxy, is on the right which is a huge upgrade for United. On the left is Spaniard Christian Fernandez who has a fair share of La Liga action, mostly with Racing Santander. FYI, the Romans called Santander Portus Victoriae Iuliobrigensium which means “The victorious port of Julio Franco.”
Luis Silva looked good last season after he came from Toronto, but he’s started slowly this year. He’ll be the creator, with Nick DeLeon providing thrust from the outside. Perry Kitchen will sit in front of the back four, and normally Davy Arnaud would play, but he’s hurt so who knows who’ll be DC’s midfield Ringo.
It’ll be Fabian Espindola and Eddie Johnson up top. While their rank among the league’s most talented strikeforces is debatable, what’s beyond the shadow of a doubt is this duo is the most loathsome in the hemisphere. Histrionics, dives, complaining, and enough quality that they can shove it all back in your face. These two are real dicks.
How can Chicago win?
Runs at the central defenders
DC’s slow central defenders mean the Fire’s forwards and midfielders should make runs both between and behind Boswell and Parke. Even if breakaways don’t result, it’ll put the United defense on its back foot and require them to sit deeper, which will create space in the midfield.
Move through the middle
With the Chicago forwards driving the DC defense back, Perry Kitchen will be unable to cover all the space in his area. It’s unlikely Luis Silva will track back well enough, so either Kitchen will have space behind him (if he doesn’t drop back) or in front of him (if he sits deeper to cover the defenders). Chicago’s center midfielders should eat this up.
Pressure the ball
DC United kinda sucks at keeping possession and finding the forwards, so the Fire would be well served to get on the United midfielders immediately. Turnovers should result in quick counters and plenty of chances.
Good luck, Fire fans. There may be gridlock in Congress, but hopefully not in front of DC’s goalmouth. Wherever you’re watching the game, get tuned up and ready to rawk!
OTF’s Stephen Mangat once held the American high school record for doing a 5K of Everclear shots. Follow him @smangat12.