The second leg of the MLS Semi Finals is later today, 3pm Eastern to be exact for D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls. The Black-and-Red trail by a goal going into the match, to advance they must win by two goals. It’s a very tough task, especially against a side like New York’s. As Kevin Garnett once said, “anything is possible”. United isn’t the popular pick before this series started, the way that D.C. stumbled into the postseason is one of those reasons. That being said, it’s game day!! How can the Black-and-Red survive and advance to the next round? We have the keys to a D.C. victory below:
Apply and maintain pressure. Much easier said than done, but United had some success in the first leg with their pressure on New York’s back line and midfield. They forced a couple of lazy passes and got a few clean looks on goal. Unfortunately, D.C. just couldn’t put those shots on frame, something they can’t afford to do for a second consecutive match. When that pressure weakened a bit int he second half, the Red Bulls were able to regroup and start to apply pressure, they became the aggressor and it paid off with the set piece goal.
Play outside in. A couple of games ago when United beat the Revolution, I had a good post game conversation with Markus Halsti. Specifically on how he looks for his teammates making wide runs. The reason being that in that game, there were a few instances in which Kemp, Franklin, or DeLeon weren’t running on to the balls that Halsti was playing wide. That may be something that D.C. wants to revisit, Halsti does a good job switching the attack from the middle. If his teammates are looking and start making those runs, that puts added pressure on a Red Bulls defense that is already focused on containing Sabo and Fabi. By playing outside-in, it loosens the defense a bit and forces their hand, getting a centre back to leave Sabo means 1-on-1 in the box and that advantage is usually his.
Shoot, shoot, and shoot some more. It’s something that United struggles to do at times, Fabi pulled the trigger on a couple of long shots in the first leg and it gave the defense and keeper something else to worry about. Trailing by a goal, this would be a great time for D.C. to pepper shots on target early and often. Who knows, may even get a couple of easy chances off of deflections.
Attack. United typically does a good job sharing the ball, sometimes a bit too much. For them to take the fight to the Red Bulls, it means seizing those moments in which they have an advantage 1v1. Instead of waiting for another run, attack the defender and go create chaos in the attacking third. The more chaos caused, the higher chances of a mistake happening in the attacking third by the Red Bulls backline. Which means scoring chances.
Finish. So easy to say, so difficult to do. United needs everyone of their players that gets a quality chance to finish it, this isn’t the moment for a bad touch as D.C. just simply can’t afford it. “Concentration” was a word used by United’s head coach this week. He’s right, if they can settle their minds in the attacking third, they may be able to let their technique take over and capitalize on those opportunities. It starts and ends with concentration at the highest level in that area of the field.