Updated: Sep 16
Starters: (4-3-3) - Kahlina; Nathan William Byrne, Adilson Malanda, Andrew Privett, Uronen, Westwood, Karol Swiderski, Brandt Bronico, Ben Bender, Enzo Copetti, Brecht Dejaeghere
Subs: Agyemang, Harrison Afful, Arfield, Derrick Jones, Jozwaik, Jaylin Lindsey, Marks, Justin Meram, Kevin Vargas
Captain: Brandt Bronico
Starters: (4-4-2) - Alex Bono, Eric Davis, Brendan Hines-Ike, Donovan Pines, Ruan, Russell Canouse, Chris Durkin, Gabriel Pirani, Jose Fajardo , Mateusz Klich, Christian Benteke
Subs: Luis Zamudio, Steven Birnbaum, Hayden Sargis, Pedro Santos, Ted Ku-DiPietro, Jackson Hopkins, Nigel Robertha, Yamil Asad, Erik Hurtado, Cristian Dájome
Mo Jeahze (ankle)
Ted Ku-DiPietro (Ankle)
Steven Birnbaum (hip)
Andy Najar (calf)
Charlotte FC - Christian Lattanzio
Charlotte FC Head Coach Christian Lattanzio has his team playing most of their games with tight, low defensive lines that favor a swift counter-attacking style of offense. This relies heavily upon the defenders to keep their shape and shut down passing lanes. There’s an emphasis on building through the spine of the team, starting from the back to the front. Lattanzio’s has a tactical preference for inverted fullbacks – where the fullbacks pinch inwards and serve as additional midfielders, creating more congestion in the middle of the field. He then has his center midfielders play more advanced and in the half spaces, with wingers making overruns.
Currently Lattanzio has his team playing well with them on a good run of undefeated form. A win over LAFC, coupled with 1-1 draws against Orlando and Nashville, have positioned Charlotte FC just behind DC for the push for the playoffs.
DC United - Wayne Rooney
The English Gaffer has improved DC United’s play in all aspects on the field, but has it been enough for United to make the playoffs. Every player has demonstrated some improvement this year. At the same time he has built a sense of camaraderie and teamwork that hasn’t been seen in years.
Rooney prefers to play a high line and control possession in the opposition’s half, leaving large spaces in behind, a tough ask for older his defenders, so he’s made changes this season that show he’s a pragmatic coach who will continue to build his strategy around the strengths of his players, while putting in place tactics designed to mitigate their weaknesses. Rooney continues to preach the idea of playing with courage and on the front foot, yet at the same time patience and calmness on the ball when in the attack, so they can maintain control of the game. His team is playing better in defense and controlling the flow of the game. The next step is for the Black & Red to improve in the final third and create more scoring opportunities.
Wayne Rooney has displayed a tactical intuition about what his team needs late in games, and has done a good job bringing in substitutions.
Keys to the Match:
Can DC stay in their Playoff Spot?
With the number of matches left in the MLS regular season dwindling down, DC United is holding onto the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, currently three points above the Charlotte, and one point behind CF Montréal. Therefore this match is as close to a must win as a team can have at this point of the season.
Will Ted Ku-DiPietro be available?
Since returning from the League’s Cup, Ted Ku-DiPietro has become an indispensable asset for DC United’s offense. His importance to the team’s performance cannot be overstated. As an attacking midfielder, Ted KDP possesses a unique blend of dribbling and hustle that make him a catalyst for the team’s attacking plays.
One of Ted KDP’s key strengths is his vision on the field. He has shown an innate ability to read the game and pick out spaces to run into that unlock even the most resolute defenses. His creative runs have led to numerous goal-scoring opportunities for DC United.
Ted KDP’s work rate and ability to press high up the field also contribute significantly to the team’s offensive success. He tirelessly harasses opponents, disrupting their build-up play and regaining possession for DC United in advanced areas. This relentless pressing sets the tone for the team’s attacking transitions.
Now, with Ted KDP is questionable for the game against Charlotte, DC United faces a significant challenge. If he can’t play, the team loses not only a playmaker but also a strategic presence. In his absence, the responsibility of orchestrating the offense may fall on a midfielder like Gabriel Pirani or a tactical shift to a different formation. While the team has capable players, Ted KDP’s absence is sure to be felt. His ability to unlock defenses, provide assists, and lead the press is unmatched. It will require a collective effort from the team to compensate for his absence, but DC United will undoubtedly miss Ted KDP’s magic on the field.
Does Donovan Pines Start?
With Derrick Williams sidelined due to a calf injury and Steven Birnbaum's questionable status because of a hip injury, Donovan Pines is a likely candidate to step into the starting lineup. Pines, while not seeing any recent playing time, possesses the ability to make the most of this opportunity. Pines is known for his physicality and aerial prowess. Standing at 6'5", he adds a formidable presence in the backline, making him a valuable asset when defending set-pieces and aerial duels. His long strides allow him to cover ground quickly and make crucial interceptions.
While he may have been on the bench recently, this situation offers Pines a chance to prove his worth for the final stretch of games. It's an opportunity for him to showcase his defensive abilities and contribute to the team's overall stability at the back. Pines will need to quickly adapt to the pace of the game and build chemistry with Hines-Ike to ensure a cohesive defensive integrity.
The absence of experienced defenders like Derrick Williams and Steven Birnbaum may put additional pressure on Pines, but it's also a chance for him to gain valuable playing time and demonstrate he should be playing more to the coaching staff. If he can rise to the occasion and perform well, it could lead to more regular opportunities in the starting lineup.
Who Plays Left Back?
The decision of who starts at left back for DC United between Pedro Santos and Eric Davis likely depends on the tactical approach and the specific game plan Rooney goes with for the upcoming match. Both players bring different strengths to the position, and the choice will depend on the team's priorities for that particular game.
If DC United prioritizes defensive stability and a solid presence at the left-back position, Eric Davis should get the nod. His recent good form in international soccer with Panama and his strong defensive capabilities make him a reliable choice to shore up the defense and provide additional cover on the left flank.
On the other hand, if the team aims for a more attacking approach or requires versatility in the lineup, Pedro Santos could be the preferred choice. Santos has shown his ability to contribute offensively and can be a valuable asset further up the field. His versatility to play multiple positions allows for tactical flexibility, and he can offer scoring opportunities coming off the bench.
With Ted KDP questionable to play there is a chance that Davis starts at the Left Back, while Pedro Santos plays up the pitch alongside Gabriel Pirani. Whether this happens or not, Eric Davis is most likely the starter at Left Back.
Things to Watch:
Offense - The Black and Red’s offense starts with Christian Benteke; he is the engine that makes it go. The long ball is a necessity for the Black & Red to move the ball upfield, and none are better than Benteke in winning aerial challenges.
Midfielders Mateusz Klich and Gabriel Pirani were able to move the ball through the midfield with the help of Andy Najar and Ted Ku-DiPoetro, which allowed the team to build some sustainable attacking play, and when this pulled in the defenders, Klich was able to pass over them and find the most dangerous aerial threat in MLS.
DC United’s defensive players still need to move the ball up the field faster. Against the Union, the back three were too slow moving the ball, against Chicago the two Center Backs were not much better. The Center Back’s passing game has often lacked the swiftness and accuracy required to transition effectively from defense to offense, and they were gun shy to pass the ball to Russell Canouse or Klich. They need to be more confident and consistent with their passing. They also need to stop relying on Bono to pass; it’s not his strength..
In the games against Chicago and San Jose, DC United showed a more dynamic and cohesive approach to their offensive buildup. Quick and accurate passing from Benteke and Klich, combined with intelligent movement from Pirani and Ted Ku-DiPietro helped the Black & Red create a dynamic offense. The team needs to continue to create chances, and be brave enough to take their shots.
Defense - DC United have improved their defensive play over the last two games with a switch to a 4-1-4-1 with Russell Canouse playing his most natural position as a pure six. Moving to a 4-1-4 allowed the Black & Red to close down their opponents more quickly, especially in the center of the field. They have not given opposing midfielders the freedom of movement and done a better job disrupting the offensive flow of their opponents.
Additionally, United have been better at choosing when and where to press up the pitch. The Black & Red have worked more as a cohesive unit starting with the forwards who apply pressure on the opponent’s back line, causing inaccurate passes. DC United’s back line has also dropped back a few steps, allowing the defenders to cut off over the top passes. The midfielders and forwards have had to run a bit more, but it has reduced scoring opportunities for opponents. The midfielders play a key role. Russell Canouse has served as a deep-lying defensive enforcer, providing cover for the back line, while Mateusz Klich has come deeper to receive the ball when the defense wins the ball. This collective effort is needed to disrupt the opponent’s passing lanes, limit their ability to score , and force turnovers.
The midfield also needs to prioritize getting back into position more quickly when the team loses possession. Quick transition from attack to defense is crucial to prevent counter-attacks that Charlotte thrive on.
The Black & Red must maintain their compact defensive shape. This requires not only individual speed, and should mean a return of Donovan Pines, but also awareness of the team’s defensive structure. Moreover, defenders and Goalkeeper Alex Bono must communicate effectively with each other, and not lose opponents in the box. The midfielders and wingers must also do more to relieve pressure on the defense.
One thing Rooney has wanted his team to do is short accurate passes between United’s lines so his team can retain possession and gradually build the attacks from the back. Clearing the ball hastily has often lead to loss of possession and invite more pressure from the opposition.
By improving their pressing, transition play, and communication between the lines, DC United’s defenders can reduce the pressure they face and enable the team to have better control over games. It’s not just about individual defending but also about working as a synchronized defensive unit to disrupt the opposition’s rhythm and create more opportunities to regain possession and launch fast attacks. These adjustments could be pivotal in improving DC United’s defensive performance and overall competitiveness.
By the Numbers:
Charlotte FC with 34 goals ranks 15th in MLS
Charlotte FC’s 43 goals conceded rank 26th in MLS
Charlotte FC’s -9 goal differential ranks 22nd in MLS
Karol Swiderski has 7 goals and 5 assists
Enzo Copetti has 5 goals and 1 assist
Justin Meram has 3 goals and 4 assists.
Kamil Jozwiak has 2 goals and 3 assists
DC United ranks number 11th in offense with 32 goals scored.
DC United has conceded 34 goals, to rank 23rd in the league in defense.
DC United’s -2 goal differential ranks the club 18th in MLS.
Christian Benteke has scored 10 goals and 4 assists.
Ted Ku-DiPietro has 6 goals and 2 assists
Mateusz Klich has 2 goals and 8 assists
Donovan Pines has 3 goals
Ruan has Zero goals, but 4 assists
Richard - 1-1 draw. DC United does not have the goal scoring threat to get the win, but the defense keeps them in the match.
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Written by: RJ Rolsen