DC United - Wayne Rooney - DC United Head Coach Wayne Rooney has definitely improved the play on the field, but has not been able to train the occasional lack of focus, and the team has conceded goals due to individual mistakes. He continues to promote the idea of playing with courage and on the front foot.
Opponent - Wilfried Nancy - The Crew’s new Head Coach made a strong case for being the Manager of the Year last season with Montreal, and if Columbus continues in the form they have shown early this season he most likely will win the award this year, hands down. He has the Crew in strong form right now, especially in the last two matches, where his team scored 10 goals (6 and 4 goals respectively). He is a coach that wants to play with the ball, and promotes a lot of movement off ball. This is a big reason that the Crew have scored 15 goals, even as Cucho Hernandez has yet to score this season.
Keys to the Match:
Can an improving DC United find a result against highflying Columbus? If there’s anything that would help change the narrative on DC United, it would be a win versus a hot team like the Columbus Crew. Thanks in large part to their Head Coach, Wilfried Nancy, Columbus has become a favorite to win some form of silverware this season. He has the Crew not only winning, but playing good looking, entertaining soccer, the type that Wayne Rooney wants DC to play.
Columbus have dominated recent head-to-head matches with the Black and Red, having won three of their last five meetings, and DC United having only one win. This includes their last match where the Crew came away as 2-0 winners back in early March. In that match Lucas Zelarayan and Cucho Hernandez gave the defense fits, and Zelarayan scored two Worldie goals. On the other end of the pitch, DC failed to score, but they were able to create chances.
With the Black and Red a bit more settled now in their seventh game, the return of Taxi Fuentas to the starting lineup, and this time being at home, there is every opportunity for DC to score and pick up the win. And while Columbus has scored ten goals in the last two games, it was against arguably the worst team in MLS in Real Salt Lake, and a heavily rotated Atlanta, which was missing nine starters, including the early favorite for MVP, Thiago Almada. Columbus is scoring, but there is an opportunity for DC to pick up a win.
Can DC United’s Defense slow the prolific offense of the Crew? Columbus ranks first in MLS in scoring with fifteen goals. They won last weekend against Real Salt Lake with a score of 4-0. This on the heels of a total dismantling of Atlanta United 1-6.
Against RSL, Columbus took eight more shots in the match, fifteen to seven. A big part of this is the movement of players off the ball. Morris scored twice against Real Salt Lake because he continued to move after the pass and was late to the box to get clean shots.
In the first match versus the Crew, Lucas Zelarayan scored a brace because of pressure they applied to DC and quick movement of the ball. Zelarayan and Cucho Hernandez were by far the best players on the field that night, with their runs and combination plays. Luckily for DC
If the Black and Red can avoid defensive errors and not lose opponents when they make their runs, DC has a chance. It might not be the prettiest of play, but expect DC to send the ball deep on direct passes, and let Benteke head it through to cutting players. Don’t expect DC to try to control it as much, and remain vulnerable to the press.
Mateusz Klich will continue to advance the ball, and will create opportunities for DC players, and with Taxi now back, there should be more goal opportunities. Lewis O’Brian will make his debut against Columbus, though whether that is as a starter or a sub remains to be seen. Coach Rooney did comment that he is happy with O’Brian’s fitness. With Klich, O’Brian, and Ted Ku-DiPietro, the team has some truly skilled ball handlers, who should grow into being better equipped to handle the press.
Chris Durkin is currently questionable, but he would not be the first player listed as questionable and still started this season. If he plays, expect him to hang back and help deal with runs by the Crew. This would also most likely mean that Russell Canouse and Lewis O’Brian would be available off the bench.
Is DC finally getting healthy? For the first time in a few weeks, DC should have a full bench to call upon. Mo Jeahze is expected back, and could get the start, but expect him to be available off the bench, either to rest a starter or come on to chase a game. Pedro Santos is expected back, and he provides coverage for both the defense and attack from the wings.
Russell Canouse and Lewis O’Brian are most likely off the bench and again would provide DC with the ability to either protect a lead or chase the game. Jackson Hopkins and Kristian Fletcher will be available for late in the game. Rooney has shown a proclivity for using their youthful enthusiasm late when they can run at tired defenders. Yamil Asad has not shown much yet, but will be available, and Rooney has shown patience to let him play himself back into form. Matai Akinmboni and Hayden Sargis remain available for the Center Backs.
Things to Watch:
Offense - The DC United offense has started to click more and more often. Christian Benteke and Taxi Fuentas are the perfect partners up top. Taxi can play off Benteke’s holdup play; while Benteke can expect space to open up because of Taxi’s runs and could get better passes in the box. Similarly Mateusz Klich is the perfect third Designated Player for Taxi and Benteke. Klich doesn’t need to score, but rather is the master at getting the ball to teammates in scoring situations.
The base defense for DC is a flat 4-4-2, but when the team goes into the offense it favors a 4-3-3. The third player in this attack will probably be Ted Ku-DiPietro, though last week Rooney chose to start Yamil Asad. Ted KDP’s energy and aggressive play was better than Asad’s, so a change could be expected. If DC can get control of the ball, expect one Fullback or the other to fly up the wings, again hoping to overload the defense.
Defense - DC United have to slow down the Crew’s dynamic attacking style of play. Because of this, I expect Jacob Greene to get the start, as he is the most defensive minded fullback, and Mo is coming off a few weeks layoff due to injury. Chris Durkin is questionable with a foot injury, but if he can go, expect him to play back again and allow Ruan to roam more. Hopefully the defensive effort Ruan showed in the second half of last week’s game is a sign of things to come.
If Durkin can’t go, we could see Russell Canouse getting the start in his place or . The Black and Red will not have to face Cucho Hernandez, who gave the team fits in their last match, but in his absence a number of players like Aidan Morris and Christian Ramirez have stepped up. Wilfried Nancy’s strategy is to keep teams off balance with their movement, and to control the ball so when an opportunity arises they can get a good shot on goal. DC United have to stay focused for 90+ minutes to ensure they keep another clean sheet.
By the Numbers:
D.C. United are currently 13th in the Eastern Conference, 2 points off the top 9.
DC United’s 7 goals in 6 matches rank them 12th in MLS.
DC United have conceded 10 goals, to rank 25th in the league in defense.
DC United have the 4th worst goals per game ratio with 1.7 in their 6 games so far this season.
DC United is ranked 22nd in goal differential in MLS at a -3.
DC United have taken 29 shots on goal, averaging 4.8 per game.
DC United have taken 31 corner kicks, averaging 5.2 per game.
Christian Benteke ranks 4th in MLS with 3 goals. He is tied with Aidan Morris and Lucas Zelarrayan who both has 3 goals too.
Columbus Crew are currently 4th in the Eastern Conference, 4 points off Cincinnati who are at the top of the table.
Columbus Crew are 1st in MLS in scoring with 15 goals in 6 matches.
Columbus Crew have allowed 8 goals to rank them 21st in defense.
Columbus Crew ranks 3rd in MLS.with a +7 goal differential.
Columbus Crew have taken 26 shots on goal, averaging 4.3 per game.
Aidan Morris has scored 3 goals with 1 assist for the Columbus Crew.
Lucas Zelarrayan has 3 goals and 1 assist for the Columbus Crew.
Aidan Morris leads the league with 18 tackles.
1- 2 Loss to the Crew. I hate to predict it, but both teams have been in opposite form this early season and that most likely will come through in this game. Columbus has found its form and DC is still developing its identity. I expect a match very similar to the game against the Revs.
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Written by: RJ Rolsen