Starter: Tyler Miller, Victor Palsson, Derrick Williams, Donovan Pines, Chris Durkin, Jacob Greene, Mateusz Klich, Russell Canouse, Lewis O’Brien, Ted Ku-DiPietro, Christian Benteke
Subs: Alex Bono, Matai Akinmboni, Brendan Hines-Ike, Gaoussou Samaké, Jackson Hopkins, Yamil Asad, Eric Hurtado, Cristian Dájome, Kristen Fletcher
Captain: Russell Canouse
Taxi Fountas (thigh)
Starters: (4-5-1) - Jonathan Bond, Jalen Neal, Eric Zavaleta, Julian Aude, Calegari, Oriol Rosoll, Daniel Aguirre, Raheem Edwards, Efraín Álvarez, Ricard Puig, Dejan Joveljic
Subs: Jonathan Klinsmann, Kelvin Leerdam, Marky Delgado, Gino Vivi, Tyler Boyd, Memo Rodriguez, Gastón Brugman, Javier (Chicharito) Hernández
Captain: Efraín Álvarez
Jonathan dos Santos
DC United - Wayne Rooney
DC United Head Coach Wayne Rooney continues to improve the play of the Black & Red on the field. He has developed a depth on the United roster that this team hasn’t seen in years. This has allowed Rooney’s team to go head-to-head with two of the East’s best and play them to draws, despite having a very long list of injuries. Rooney also shows a lot of pragmatism, which allows him to change his lineup and strategy to best incorporate the player’s strengths while mitigating their
Opponent - Greg Vanney
Los Angeles Galaxy Head Coach is in his third season with the team. A defender in his playing days, Vanney was one of MLS's original players, and a key member of the LA Galaxy, where he played for seven seasons.
After a ten year playing career, Vanney transitioned into coaching. His first fifteen years of managing was in youth soccer: coaching, directing and consulting. Then in January of 2011, Vanney joined Chivas USA as an assistant coach. Vanney got his first head coaching job as an interim Head Coach of Toronto FC on August 31, 2014. In his time with Toronto, Venney was able to turn the perpetual cellar dweller into a powerhouse that challenged being the best team of all time. In 2017, Vanney and Toronto FC won the MLS Cup.
In January 2021, Vanney was named as Head Coach of the LA Galaxy, and started the process of rebuilding this once great franchise. In 2021, Vanney's Galaxy narrowly missed the playoffs, being knocked out on decision day. Then in 2022 the Galaxy finished fourth in the Western Conference (ninth overall), showing marked improvement in the season, especially when the team added Ricky Puig.
There was a lot of optimism going into the 2023 season, with the expectation that Vanney would continue to build on the success of 2022. Unfortunately for Galaxy fans this has not been the case. The LA Galaxy have been very poor this season, having gained just nine points from twelve games, which leaves them firmly at the bottom of the Western Conference.
In his coaching style, Vanney has shown flexibility in his tactics, willingly switching up his tactics from a 4–4–2 diamond to a 3–5–2 formation depending on player availability. If Chicharito is available to play a majority of the match, a 3–5–2 formation might make the most sense. This would allow Chicharito to partner with Dejan Joveljic up top, and Ricky Puig to play just under in a quasi ten/eight role.
Keys to the Match:
Can an improving DC United keep the LA Galaxy down? When the LA Galaxy come to Audi Field they will be looking to break a three-game road losing streak. Currently the Black & Red are .500 at home with a 2-2-2 record., but have been playing better and are still looking to make Audi Field a fortress. Fortunately for them LA are 0-4-2 on the road this season.
How many minutes can Benteke and Ted Ku-Diepetro play? Both players played well on Wednesday, but have had recent knocks. At their best the two have shown a strong ability to play off one another and score, but with the short turnaround, there has to be some concern about how many minutes the two can go. Unfortunately injuries mean that Rooney doesn’t have a lot of options to choose from.
Can DC United’s Defense make Audi Field a fortress? After winning the season opener, DC has had a bad run of form at home. Currently the Black & Red are tied for fewest points earned at home. The game against LA is a match where United can improve that record. The Galaxy have yet to win an away match and looked particularly poor in the 2-0 defeat against Columbus Crew on Wednesday. If DC shows the same tenacity and coordination on defense that the team displayed versus Nashville and Philadelphia, then the supporters should see three points earned. This will be important if the Black & Red are to continue to move up the standings.
Can DC exploit LA's CenterBacks? One reason LA might utilize a three back formation is that one of their starters is Jalen Neal. The young Center Back is a very talented player, who looks to have a bright future, but he’s nineteen and could have a hard time handling the physicality of Benteke. It’s not just the physicality that sets Benteke apart from other Strikers in MLS, it’s his ability to hold up long passes and play the ball off to teammates making coordinated runs. Lewis O’Brian, Ted Ku-DiPietro, and Mateusz Klich have shown innate ability to make runs into space and receive the ball on the move. This could challenge LA’s defense and pull them out of position, which should lead to scoring opportunities.
Can DC win the midfield? The best player on the Galaxy is by far Ricky Puig.
The Barca product is a maestro with the ball at his feet, and can make passes like few others in the league. Look for Puig to be harassed by Russell Canouse.
DC’s defensive Midfielder has been outstanding in the midfield, and Rooney has trusted him to the point that his name on the team sheet is in pen. While Canouse is attempting to put a straight jacket on Puig, his partners in the midfield, Lewis O’Brian and Mateusz Klich will be looking to press Oriol Rosoll and Daniel Aguirre, forcing turnovers. United’s two Eights have shown a strong ability to win the ball via the press, and then quickly advance it into the attack. This will create opportunities for DC players on the counter attack.
One thing DC did quite effectively against the Union was to press high. They didn’t press for the entire game, but picked their spots. This kept Philadelphia off-balance. You will most likely see United perform a similar press versus the Galaxy’s defense and midfielders to catch LA unaware and launch a quick counterattack up the sides which were vulnerable to the Crew on Wednesday.
Things to Watch:
Offense - The DC United offense has started to click. The Black & Red showed promising signs of control and dominance throughout their last two matches.
One of LA’s defensive shortcomings, this season is the team often gets stretched out, and opponents are often able to play through them and play balls behind their back line. When they get stretched out on the defensive side they’re players are not really in a position to help each other out, leaving them vulnerable.
Christian Benteke and Ted Ku-DiPietro should both get opportunities to score, and Teddy is proving to be a really good backup for Taxi. Teddy has shown like Taxi he can play off Benteke’s holdup play perfectly, making runs, pulling defenders and getting into scoring positions. Because of this Benteke has seen more space which has allowed him to really show his dribbling and passing ability. Similarly Mateusz Klich and Lewis O’Brien are proving to be an amazing pairing in the midfield. Klich and O’Brien don’t need to score, but rather are masters at getting the ball from the opponent and making smart passes to teammates.
The base formation for DC is a flat 3-5-2, which allows players to move fluidly around the field. United’s attacking style of play, sees players moving without the ball to exploit space, and not being confined to a particular position on the field. You will see O’Brien on the left pick up a ball and hit a long diagonal pass to Chris Durkin on the right, who will hit Klich in the middle. The next time you might see O’Brien receiving a pass from Derrick Williams on the right, play a one time pass to Benteke in the middle who slides it to Klich who is running up the left. There is a progressive movement of both ball and players that looks to unbalance the opposing team and should pull LA out of their defensive structure.
Off the bench will probably be Jackson Hopkins, Yamil Asad, Cristian Dájome, and Kristen Fletcher. Each of these players has shown they can come off the bench and produce offensive performances worthy of starters.
With LA Galaxy’s defensive weaknesses, there is probably a hope that DC can score a couple goals and allow Rooney to sub in a few players to give the likes of Benteke and Ku-DiPietro to get rest. If the likes of Hurtado and Fletcher see the pitch then DC is most likely in the driver’s seat and cruising to a win.
Defense - DC United have to handle the Galaxy’s dynamic Midfielder Ricky Puig. All of LA’s offense hinges on his creativity m, and his ability to deliver the ball to Dejan Joveljic and Chicharito. Puig is potentially the best number eight in MLS, but he’s being forced into a number ten role that he isn’t quite as comfortable in. He can finish, but setting up teammates is more his forte. If DC can keep Puig from finding the likes of Dejan Joveljic and Chicharito in scoring positions, the team’s chances of keeping a clean sheet go up.
If they play together Joveljic and Chicharito can be a dangerous pair. Joveljic is a young Serbian Striker with the ability to play on the wing. The Black & Red will need to keep an account of his movements, and make sure he doesn’t get behind when they play their high line.
Chicharito is the more seasoned player, and a bonafide goal scorer. He scored 21 and 17 goals respectively in the last two seasons. This season has been more challenging for Chicharito, as the Mexican striker has only managed to score one goal so far, but he is getting healthier and could give the Galaxy the scoring threat they have sorely needed. DC will need to keep an eye on him, especially when he enters the penalty box, as he is a poacher who will pounce on opportunities if United make a mistake.
In his pre-game press briefing, Derrick Williams credited a lot of DC’s defensive improvements on the play of Russell Canouse, Mateusz Klich, Lewis O’Brien, and Chris Durkin. He talked about how those players hustle and run everywhere, not giving opponents any opportunities to get into their offense.
Andy Najar and Ruan are still out with injuries, so expect Chris Durkin to play Right Wingback, and push further up the field. With Mo Jeahze and Pedro Santos also out with injuries, and Gaoussou Samaké having played the full game on Wednesday, Jacob Greene could return to the starting lineup. Greene is actually a better defender, and would improve the team’s defense.
Tyler Miller continues to be a most unique goalkeeper. He’s been strong in between the posts, and has grown in confidence as his defense has become more consistent. What sets him apart is his willingness to come out of the goal and challenge opponents up the pitch. On Wednesday he broke up a potential Philadelphia attack at the center circle. Rooney employs a high line for the defense, so asks Miller to cover the space behind, and not allow opponents to just pass through the back line. So far DC United hasn’t been burned.
Words from the Gaffer: “We can’t afford to get complacent, and we know LA Galaxy are a good team and probably deserves to be higher up in the league than what they are. They’ve had some good performances, and they’ve got some really good players, some good individuals who can hurt you. So we have to be at our best to win the game on Saturday”
By the Numbers:
DC United have scored 16 goals in 13 matches for 12th in scoring
DC United has allowed 16 goals in 13 matches for 16th in the league
DC United has a zero differential in scoring and goals allowed, ranking 12th in MLS
DC United has scored 9 goals in open play and 5 goals from set piece play.
DC United’s 13 goals conceded (1.3 per game) rank 17th in the league
Christian Benteke has scored 5 goals (8th in the league)
Mateusz Klich has 1 goal and 4 assists
Ted Ku-DiPietro has scored 2 goals and 1 assist
DC United have 5 additional players with 1 goal apiece
Tyler Miller has kept 4 clean sheets
This will be the 51st meeting across all competitions between DC United and LA Galaxy
LA Galaxy has scored 10 goals in 12 matches, ranks 24th in MLS
The LA Galaxy has allowed 20 goals, ranking 25th.
The LA Galaxy with a -10 goal differential for the season, ranks 28th in MLS
Dejan Joveljic has 2 goals and 1 assist for the Galaxy
Kelvin Leerdam has 1 goal and 1 assist for the Galaxy
Marky Delgado has 1 goal and 1 assist for the Galaxy
Chicharito has 1 goal and 1 assist for the Galaxy
3-0 victory over the Galaxy. The Black & Red are playing with confidence both in the attack and on defense. The team is playing with more consistency and familiarity, so there are fewer misplaced passes, or mistakes that lead to dangerous situations. Now is the time for DC to play on its front-foot and make Audi a scary place for opponents to come into.
Coverage: Apple MLS Season Pass on Apple TV (subscription required)
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Written by: RJ Rolsen