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A View from the Top Row DC United vs Nashville SC Game Review

Starters: Tyler Miller, Ruan (Cristian Dájome 81'), Derrick Williams, Donovan Pines, Victor Pálsson, Gaoussou Samaké, Russell Canouse (Kristian Fletcher 81'), Chris Durkin (Ted Ku-DiPietro 81'), Lewis O'Brien, Mateusz Klich, Taxiarchis Fountas (Erik Hurtado 23')

Bench: Alex Bono, Matai Akinmboni, Brendan Hines-Ike, Jacob Greene, Yamil Asad

Captain: Russell Canouse

Starters: Joe Willis, Daniel Lowitz, Lukas MacNaughton, Jack Maher, Shaq Moore, Dax McCarty (Brian Anunga 76'), Hany Mukhtar, Teal Bunbury, Jacob Shaffelburg (Fafa Picault 62'), Alex Muyl (Taylor Washington 88'), Anibal Godoy (Sean Davis 76')

Subs: Josh Bauer, Jan Gregus, Randall Leal, Luke Haakenson, Ethan Zub

Captain: Hany Mukhtar 


First Half: Going into this match, DC United had never beaten Nashville SC, the Music having been a bit of a bogeyman for the Black & Red since they joined the league. Going into the game there was reason for optimism, right up until the lineup was released. Immediately a notable absence was obvious with Christian Benteke not in the starting eleven, nor on the bench. 

A big part of United’s recent success had hinged on Benteke’s ability to receive long passes and hold up play. With the much smaller Taxi Fountas playing up top in a false nine role, it was easy to see DC United would need to play a different style.

One issue that DC United had had in recent matches, even in games that they won, was slow starts. The Black & Red often started on the back foot and had to weather an offensive push by the opposing team prior to them getting control of the game. This was not the case versus Nashville. In this match, DC United gained control of the midfield quickly and was on the front foot attacking rather quickly. On the first attacking opportunity for United, if Ruan’s pass back to Taxi had nutmegged the defender just a bit cleaner, Taxi would most likely have celebrated his fourth goal of the season.

On the second clear attacking opportunity Taxi seemed to pick up what looked like a hamstring injury. When Taxi went down without contact, the attack fizzled and Ruan just passed the ball out of bounds. Taxi would try to play on, but was forced to depart the match at the 23rd minute mark and would be replaced by Erik Hurtado.

Now without both Taxi and Benteke, one might have expected DC United to fall back into a defensive shell, but that was not the case. The Black & Red were arguably the more threatening team throughout the rest of the first half as they placed the proverbial straight jacket on Hany Mukthar, and did not let him dictate the game.

It was Chris Durkin who had the most exciting play of the half. He picked up the ball in the center of the field, and dribbled into space, where he unleashed a strike from 25 yards out, which looked to be dangerous. Unfortunately the ball struck the crossbar.

The half would end with both teams locked in a draw, but DC was definitely the more dominant team.

Second Half:

The second half started the same way the first ended, with DC United playing on the front foot, and placing a lot of pressure on Nashville, while the Black & Red defenders shut down the Music time and time again. DC players matched Nashville with their physicality, and kept them from creating any consistency in their play.

on the other side of the ball, DC was able to move the ball and create chances; unfortunately they were lacking a consistent goal scorer who could take advantage of their opportunities. Lewis O’Brien was especially active and dangerous on the offense. At one point the young Englishman nearly slalomed through the entire Nashville defense, but unfortunately lost his balance due to contact from the defense and the ball ended up being swallowed up by Joe Willis.

The Music’s best chance of scoring came when Fafa Picault got down the left wing and picked out Hany Mukhtar in the box. Mukhtar's shot was on target, but Tyler Miller reacted perfectly to punch the ball away. 

Unfortunately Samaké, who had had a decent if not great game, fell asleep on defense, and Shaq Moore was able to easily retrieve the loose ball.

Miller could be heard yelling at Samaké to close out Shaq Moore, but before he could, the USMNT Fullback was able to cross the ball into the box. Miller was slow to react to the ball and ended up knocking it down. With the loose ball bouncing in the box in front of the goal, Pines went to quickly clear it, unfortunately he booted it hard off of Alex Muyl’s armpit which redirected the ball back into the net.

Seriously, his armpit.

Now chasing the match with roughly fifteen minutes left in the game, Rooney took a chance and put on some young players to bring energy and freshness to the attack. Ted Ku-DiPietro and Kristian Fletcher joined  Cristian Dájome as the three subs. All three brought uptempo to the attack as Nashville tried going defensive.

Every time DC won the ball, they quickly transitioned into the attack. On one point Mateusz Klich received the ball in the middle of the field and quickly played Kristian Fletcher down the left side. Fletcher dribbled at the defense and cut into the box. Taking on a defender, the young forward nearly lost control, but was able to play a pass to Ted Ku-DiPietro, who one-timed a low shot from near the penalty spot past Joe Willis for the match tying goal.

DC would press for a second, and if there was more time they might have picked up all three points, but as such they definitely earned the point against one of the best teams in the Eastern conference.

Words from the Gaffer: “Firstly, I thought we were excellent. Controlled the game, dominated the game. It would have been very hard to take if we hadn’t gotten anything out of the game.

“Secondly delighted for Ku (Ku-Pietro). Ku-Po was told three days ago he would be out for about two weeks. He was struggling yesterday and came to see me. He said if I need him for ten to fifteen minutes then he would give what he can. He gets his reward for having that character. The reward for being brave and doing everything he can for the team.”

Observations From the Upper Deck: 

  • DC United trying to hit the long ball too much without Christian Benteke. There isn’t anyone there to control the ball up top

  • At the eight minute mark DC United had a good chance but Ruan’s pass back to Taxi didn’t reach him

  • Ruan’s playing better defense in today’s game, doing a good job getting back

  • DC United attacking players are playing all over the pitch. It seems like only Ruan and Samaké are staying home in their positions along with the three center backs  

  • The Nashville defense is as good as advertised

  • Durkin put it off the crossbar on an amazing shot that looked like it was going in

  • Missing having a Benteke or taxi in the box vet a couple opportunities where we just needed a goal score.

  • DC has created the most chances, but Hany Mukthar has shown he can be dangerous at any moment.

  • Pines just missed that shot. Great turn in the box, but it was too wide

  • If only O’Brien could have kept his balance, he was almost in on goal

  • Samaké is playing okay, but the team misses Santos on the left

  • What a save by Miller

  • Samaké fell asleep on defense 

  • How does a guy score with his armpit!?!

  • Rooney throwing in the homegrowns to chase a goal 

  • Ted KDP-Cool!

  • What an assist and goal by the young players

  • DC is still chasing the second goal

  • Nashville is holding on

  • DC gets the draw

Player Ratings (FotMob):

Tyler Miller            7.2

Victor Pálsson        7.3

Derrick Williams    6.8

Donovan Pines       7.4

Gaoussou Samaké  6.9

Ruan                       7.2

Russell Canouse     7.4

Lewis O’Brien       7.5

Mateusz Klich        7.4

Chris Durkin           6.8

Taxi Fuentas.          6.2


Eric Hurtado           5.8

Ted Ku-DiPietro     7.5

Kristen Fletcher      6.8

Cristian Dájome     6.8

Man of the Match - Russell Canouse - The Defensive Midfielder has really upped his game this season. He has brought steady consistency to the center of the pitch for United. The reason that Canouse is the Man of the Match is the veteran midfielder shut down Hany Mukthar all night. Mukthar only had two chances where he was in a dangerous position all match. Other than those, Canouse shut down one of the most dangerous players in MLS.

Up Next: At Philadelphia Union on Wednesday 


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