The two top teams in the Eastern Conference meet tonight, a flat out one versus two matchup. In the past couple of weeks, both the Black-and-Red and the New England Revolution have held the first place mantle. At this point New England is in second place while the visiting United is currently two points ahead in first place. A win for New England gives them a one point lead and first place while a win for DC puts them a full five points ahead and they will retain the first place spot atop the tables. Both teams have had long unbeaten streaks (eight and nine games unbeaten respectively) this season, they’ve also had those streaks busted in last week as well. So who will be the first to get back on track?
It should be a great matchup in the middle of the field between New England’s Lee Nguyen and Jermaine Jones against DC’s duo of Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud. The duo that wins will play a big role into dictating the tempo and possession of the game, which is paramount in what should be a close game. There’s a reason both of these teams sit atop the tables.
The Revs have no issue putting shots on goal, Charlie Davies and Juan Agudelo have taken 25 shots a piece this season, each netting four goals. They will face a challenge as they’ll have to score against the best defense in the league with the best keeper behind them. No matter who’ll be starting at centre back for United, the trio of Boswell, Birnbaum, and Opare have proven their value in the center of United’s defense. Bill Hamid has been stellar this season as well, when asked to make the spectacular save, he’s answered more often than not.
DC is a very good counter attacking team, as New England is aware of. Which goes back to the point about possession, the Revs can’t afford to get forward and get dispossessed or not score. United defends as a unit, all 11 players come back to form a shell around their goal. They are most dangerous when they seem to have their back on the ropes, a clearance can easily turn to an advantage as teams have to push forward in numbers to create quality chances against that stingy defense.
The Black-and-Red are in the midst of their stretch of the schedule where they’ll be playing on short rest and their depth is to be tested. No matter who is in the starting 11, they must make sure they are sharp in the final third. Even at this point in the season, DC has yet to get to optimum performance in that area of the field. That being said, New England doesn’t want to be that team that lets the flood gates open. There have been several games in which United had a chance to put three or four goals up but were just a bit off.
Tonight’s game will be a test for both teams against a quality opponent, many DC fans are reluctant to enjoy the current record due to how the season ended last year. A win over New England will be another example of why this team is different than last year’s bunch, the Revs don’t want to start a streak on the wrong side of their record. Neither team wants to be the first to take back-to-back losses this season.
How DC gets a result
- Possession. The Black-and-Red have been at their most dangerous this season when they’ve taken their time on the ball, keeping the action in their opponent’s final third
- Pressure. While United is mostly a counter attacking team, there have been times this season (Espindola, Rolfe) when high pressure has led to huge scoring opportunities
- Get Kitchen/Arnaud involved in the attack. The duo does a good job defending and winning possession, their inclusion on the attack takes the Black-and-Red to another level in the final third
- Clearances. The few goals that DC has conceded this season haven’t come from the opponent’s pressure, but from failed clearances that leaves the ball in crowds
- Shoot. It sounds simple, but United has had an issue of over passing at times in the opponent’s final third. They must shoot when given the opportunity, just putting shots on goal keep defenses honest
- Rolfe. He’s been amazing all year for the Black-and-Red, the games in which the team has struggled resulted in him having limited touches. He needs to be on the ball as much as possible, key playmaker for DC