Know Your Enemy: DC United

DCUnited

On The Fire’s brother-in-arms and MLS oracle from Philly Stephen Mangat brings you the intel on the Dirty Birds from RFK.

The Chicago Fire take on DC United this Wednesday night and it’s time to see what the “Black and Red” are all about…

CUE THE THEME MUSIC!

Fortuitously, my Philadelphia Union traveled to the nation’s capital on Sunday, so this post brings you a preview based on DC’s most recent game.

The DC/Philly game was pretty uneventful for the first 90 minutes. But once stoppage time commenced, all hell broke loose. From the MLS Kick Off e-newsletter:

“Here’s what happened after minute 90: a PK was taken twice, three red cards were shown, there was a dust-up between the two teams, and D.C. teammates exchanged words.”

Go to ProSoccerTalk on NBCSports.com for a more detailed breakdown or see below for a gif of the late match madness.

Look closely and you’ll see Freddy Adu giving the ball away.

So how will their Sunday meltdown affect United on Wednesday? First and foremost, they’ll be missing two regulars: midfielder Branko Boskovic and defender Emiliano Dudar. In addition to having two players suspended, Sunday’s 1-1 draw brought DC’s tally in their last five matches to just four points – including only four goals scored during this stretch. Basically, DC isn’t winning games that they need to win and losing games they should draw because the goals have dried up and the defense hasn’t improved. Some DC fans are hoping that the Philly game will get the team fired up and motivate them to turn their season around, but getting angry (with the refs and one another) isn’t going to make passes sharper and defenders more focused. If anything, the continued inability to win the winnable games is a habit and a bad sign for United.

Let’s take a look at what to expect from DC on Wednesday from back to front.

Goalkeeper

Bill Hamid is a 21-year-old rising star who is in his second year of being United’s first choice. He’s been capped for the USMNT and has played for all the US youth national teams. He’s a bit raw now, but he’s no joke and a future star. Hamid is actually quite similar to Chicago’s Sean Johnson in that respect.

Defense

DC’s defense kinda sucks. The team has been scored on 30 times in 24 games. And the teams that have a worse defensive record in the East (New England, Montreal, Toronto) are teams that aren’t going to make the playoffs (save for NYRB, but they score for fun). With starting centerback Dudar out, I don’t expect things to improve. The Rolfe/MacDonald (and Oduro off-the-bench) combo should continue to prove fruitful for Chicago. Also, it’ll be interesting to see how United starters Chris Korb and Brandon McDonald get on after they almost came to blows immediately following the Philly game.

Midfield

Nick DeLeon is on the left and Andy Najar is on the right. Both are dangerous and Najar is one of the top young talents in the league. Both have speed to get around defenders and while DeLeon is stronger and a better defender, Najar’s skills make him a player that always needs to be watched. after a good showing at the Olympics for Honduras, I predict that Najar will soon go to Europe. It’ll be interesting to see how Chicago deals with Najar and DeLeon: do the Fire stick with their attacking posture or ask the outside midfielders to sit back a bit and provide some cover for the outside backs?

In the middle, Dwayne De Rosario operates behind the forward(s). No need here for an explanation of De Rosario’s quality. Despite his MLS scoring drought this season, he’s one of the best in the league. On Sunday, Perry Kitchen sat in front of the back four. With centerback Dudar suspended Kitchen could be moved back, so keep an eye in the center of the field for how DC lines up.  Kitchen is a young player of quality, though I’m not as impressed with him as others seem to be. I can see Chicago bossing the game from the middle. De Rosario doesn’t like to defend, which should give Pavel Pardo space and time to find Rolfe, MacDonald, et al., who will cause problems for what will probably be a rejigged United midfield and backline.

Attack

Chris Pontius and Dwayne De Rosario are great attacking midfielders through the middle. In fact, DC’s midfielders are all strong when they attack. But at the moment, they just seem to lack a second forward who is on the same page with the midfielders like Pontius is. To address the problem, United traded for Lionard Pajoy (from Philly) last week, but Pajoy was hardly lighting it up for the Union. DC’s other options up top are Maicon SantosLong Tan and Hamdi Salihi.

Lionard Pajoy, Maicon Santos, Long Tan, and Hamdi Salihi? Child please.

Most of United’s attack comes from the outside midfielders, De-Ro, and forward/midfielder Pontius (see his other work below). DC’s aforementioned issue with the other man up top is the reason the goals have dried up as of late, and finding someone who can combine with Pontius and De Rosario is key to getting their season back on track. Early in the season, Maicon Santos was that man and United averaged 2.1 goals a game in April and May (scoring 4 vs. RBNY and 3 vs. Houston, San Jose, Toronto, and New England). But July and August have seen the goals dry up. And most recently against Philly, DC did not look sharp.

“Party Boy” Chris Pontius doin’ his thang.

So DC aren’t playing well, but they’re unbeaten at home since opening night. They will be missing one starter in defense and one of their first guys off the bench. Finally, let’s not forget that they played on Sunday, so they have a shorter rest than Chicago. So all-in-all, this is a team for the taking and the Fire should go for the win.

Best of luck Fire fans, and remember the great words of Mr. Chris Pontius who said, “Wait a minute. I already know my fortune, it’s partying!”

Dear Readers: Comments (one way or the other) are welcome and encouraged!

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