While the Black-and-Red fell short in the first leg of their matchup with Queretaro F.C. last night, they do get a chance to redeem themselves at home next week at RFK. The bad news being that they trail by two in the aggregate with the 2-0 loss on Mexican soil, the good news being that this round of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League is not yet over.
It’s always interesting in these matchups as the Mexican league teams are already in good form, while the MLS teams are coming out of their preseason matches. D.C. United is playing a 4-4-2 as they have for the past few seasons, however there is a wrinkle. While the backline and midfield are flat, the two up top are staggered with one playing underneath of the other. The backline remained the same as last season with Sean Franklin, Steven Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, and Taylor Kemp. There were several changes in midfield, Nick DeLeon moved inside alongside Marchelo Sarvas and they were flanked by Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko. The two up top were Luciana Acosta and Fabian Espindola.
Birnbaum nearly put his team ahead three minutes into the game on a corner from Espindola. Fabi sent it far post and the ball bounced once, and Steven struck it well but the header was pushed above the cross bar. The home team would get a great chance shortly thereafter, but they were thwarted by the backline of D.C. United.
Queretaro spent much of the game trying to exploit the visitors on the flanks, for much of the game the Black-and-Red did a solid job of not getting beat out wide. The wide midfielders did a great job of getting back to help when needed for much of the game.
The home side would open the scoring in the 71st minute, Yerson Candelo got things started with a beautiful strike from outside the penalty box. The ball had a wiggle to it and dipped under the crossbar and over Dykstra’s outstretched hand. Querataro put things away in the 83rd minute when they caught the backline of D.C. United napping. Edgar Benitez took advantage of the situation and beat the charging Dykstra in a 1v1 situation.
Luciano Acosta – The diminutive player has to get used to his teammates, but he brings speed and technical ability to the attack. He never seems to tire and did a great job when on the ball, definitely a fan of his activity. Truly feels like he doesn’t stop moving. He and Fabi have to get on the same page as there were a few instances where the attack could have continued, but it’s clear things are still new. He brings a dimension to this team that is sorely needed.
Midfield – This four can certainly work, but it’s not written in stone if this is in fact the starting four. Still it’s clear they haven’t spent much time together as the fit is still new. They don’t seem to be on the same page yet.
Lack of Possession – The visitors had far too many giveaways on their own end, and rarely put together solid possessions. Again, they looked like a team that’s in preseason form which is what they are. Although, I did like the intentions of some of the errant passes. The ball seems to be moving quicker once possession is won versus last year when everything felt slow or took an elongated buildup. The ball is being played into space more.
Backline – They had a solid night at best, but far from great. There were times when they were caught out of position, but didn’t suffer huge consequences. I wouldn’t be worried about it much though, that group, that four is familiar with each other where midfield is not. They do have to work on keeping possession after winning the ball as well, felt as if they were rushing a bit.
Attacking third – D.C. did create a few quality chances throughout the game, they just couldn’t capitalize on them. There were also a few times in which a critical 1v1 opportunity was lost (credit to the defense). Had those chances been won, the score may have been different. Still, they were able to create quality chances and the finishing should improve as the season goes on.