It’s game day for the Black-and-Red, they’ll be hosting New York City FC who’s on a roll right now. They are currently on a three game win streak, the last time these two teams met, NYC rallied for a 3-1 victory. This being the third consecutive week that D.C. will be facing a world class striker up front, they get to deal with David Villa after back-to-back games that featured Kei Kamara and the ageless Didier Drogba.
Olsen was very complementary of tonight’s visiting team earlier this week, “Very good possession team, very good passing team and they have a world class forward.” He also talked about the importance of their star players stepping up when needed, “They seem to have their big players playing big which is very very important for teams to have success in this league. You need your big boys to step up and earn their money. They seem to be doing that.” Those big players mentioned all came over during the transfer window in Villa, Frank Lampard, and Andrea Pirlo.
This will definitely be a game that is won in the midfield, seems to be mentioned every week, but it’s true. NYC FC is an extremely good passing team, Olsen also spoke about his team having to chase teams which got them out of their comfort zone. D.C. will have to chase this team from the start, even more so if they go down a goal early. They have a strong midfield, all of whom have good vision. They switch field very well, all of things that have given the Black-and-Red trouble this season. Looking at the last six games during their drought, they’ve played teams with good midfields that really took control of the game and limited those precious counter attacking possessions that make United so dangerous. The last thing the home team can afford to do tonight, is let this be target practice as Villa already has 17 goals. Already seen how big a difference a special striker can make in a close game, Montreal with Drogba.
While New York City FC is the opponent tonight, the bigger task for the home team will be fighting to get out of their own way. It’s hard in sports when teams get on the wrong side of things and spend an extended amount of time in that bad space. United is a confident group, again it’s about doing the little things and avoiding those self-inflicting wounds.
Here are five keys to D.C. United breaking out of this six game winless streak and getting a result tonight (which would clinch a playoff berth):
- Sustain possession. D.C. must win the possession battle tonight, NYC FC likes to make opposing teams chase the ball which means they’re in possession of it quite a bit. If United can do this, maybe they can get the visitors to chase.
- Be the aggressor. While being a counter-attacking team means that you absorb the attack, then respond swiftly, United may want to replicate their pressure from the Crew game. Get Saborio and Espindola engaged early by having them pressure the backline of the visiting team. See if they can force the sloppy passes are bad giveaways and be the team that takes advantage from it rather the team that suffers for it.
- Limit Hamid’s workload. While he is arguably the best keeper in the league, he’s been too involved during this six game winless streak. Which means the opposing team’s attack has had just a little more bite than yours.
- Keep the wings engaged. United’s at their best on the attack when Rolfe and DeLeon are on the ball on the flanks, they are two of D.C’s better players on the ball and are able to break down the defense. They also need to do a better job making runs off of Espindola or Saborio in holdup play. They’ve spent the past few games on the defensive end a bit too much, they also are key in the counter attack.
- Hold up play. Get the ball to Sabo and Fabi, but more importantly don’t leave them hanging. Fabi especially, he’s always looking for a running teammate, he often uses clever little touches to no avail. If teammates were already running, those could lead to huge opportunities. Same with Sabo, United’s players have to support their teammates in holdup play much, much better. It could definitely lead to better scoring opportunities.