The Black-and-Red started the week in a two way tie for first place in the Eastern Conference, that changed when the Revolution and Orlando came to a 2-2 draw. New England is now just one point above DC in the standings, meaning a result against Sporting Kansas City would put United two points ahead of the Revolution. Bragging rights between Sporting KC and DC United are definitely on the line as their all time series stands at 20-20-11
The home town bunch has been on a streak as of late, in the last six matches they haven’t tasted defeat as they won four and drew the other two games. DC has done it by being a complete team, really just playing for the man next to them. While they don’t have that ‘star’ player that draws headlines or extra attention from opposing teams, they are a team in every sense of the word. That togetherness and grit has led them to the best start in franchise history and has them near the top of the table after starting the season with anything but a full roster.
Sporting Kansas City got a much needed win last week against Chicago, prior to that win they were in a three game slide. While KC has struggled to this point, if the playoffs started today, they would be the last and final team in the Western Conference to make it. There is still plenty of time left in the season for them to try and make their way up the table, a win in DC would be a great step in that direction and give them a two game winning streak.
The good news for the visitors is that they have scored 12 goals this season, the negative is they’ve conceded that same amount as well. There is more than enough talent on their roster to create trouble for the home side. One of the leagues better playmakers plays for KC, Benny Feilhaber is leading the league in assists (5). There is ample firepower coming off of the bench as well, the lone goal against Chicago was scored by Pablo Nagumara who came on as a late sub. This team has shown a penchant for scoring goals late in games, as they have netted six goals 60 minutes or later in games this season. They are an explosive attacking team in terms of creating chances, they lead the league by creating 10.8 chances per game. As far as set pieces go, they have created 28 chances this season in those opportunities. They’ll need to capitalize on those chances to steal a win in DC.
One of the biggest strengths that Sporting KC brings to the table is the type of experience their best players have. There are players who have won championships, who won’t be fazed by the tall task of defeating a DC team that hasn’t lost a home game in their last 16 matches. Also a team that won’t flinch if they go down early, DC has had a couple of games where they went up by two goals, but couldn’t deliver the dagger or knockout punch. We’ll find out if they learned from those games they let slip away, they seemed to have made progress in that regard in their win last week.
The home side is the healthiest they’ve been all season, it’ll be interesting to see who Ben Olsen and the coaching staff decide on being a part of the starting 11 as well as the eligible subs for the game. While Steven Birnbaum appears to be a week or so away from returning at full strength, Markus Halsti is now a legit option as a sub for the first time all season.
The Black-and-Red defend like no other, it’s not just a ‘defense’ or backline issue. The entire 11 is part of the process, all working together and it’s put them in a great position early this season. It’s played a huge role while they’ve gotten sharper on the attack, this will be Fabian Espindola’s third game back and he should only get more comfortable. He’s created chances for teammates and scored his first goal of the season in last week’s win, he and Chris Rolfe are truly a dynamic duo up front.
It’s imperative that Perry Kitchen, Davy Arnaud and company take care of business in midfield. During this six game stretch in which a draw is the closest they’ve been to a loss, the midfield has done a great job dictating the tempo of the game. United has forced teams to adjust to their 4-4-2 alignment, while they’ve made minor changes during games, they’ve yet to abandon their alignment and try something different. That speaks volumes, it’ll be another test later today as they must do it again to get the desired result.
While the defense continues to get stronger and remains a staple for this team, keep an eye on the evolving attack. DC has shown that they are extremely dangerous on the counter attack and in set pieces. Their attack isn’t at top form, but it’s been effective enough to get results this season. Their have honestly been at least five games this season in which they could have scored three or more goals, but they were just a bit off. Will this be the week that the attack is just as sharp as their stellar defense?