The Black-and-Red lost their season opener to the Los Angeles Galaxy last week, the score being 4-1. Despite the lopsided score, there were positives to take moving forward. The first 45 minutes of last week’s game was very high quality soccer, definitely better than any half played by D.C. United last season. The second 45 minutes or so, not so great. It’s only one game, only one loss so there’s no reason to panic.
This team has a bunch of new faces and the style of play from that first half last week is a bit different than last year’s campaign. Whether anyone wants to hear it or not, it’s going to take time and it seems as if Coach Ben Olsen and the players know it. It’s about gaining more game time together and gelling, growing towards their final product. It starts today on the road against New England, a chance to move forward and continue to improve.
The Revolution are coming off a game in which they had to fight back and steal points from. They would come to a 3-3 draw with the Houston Dynamo last week after overcoming two deficits to get one point. New England has a very dangerous group of attackers, especially in their midfield. Diego Fagundez played a big part in last week’s win by tallying one goal and two assists. Lee Ngyuen, Teal Bunbury, Gershon Koffie and Kellyn Rowe round out their five man crew in the middle. Up top are former D.C. United member Charlie Davies and young Juan Agudelo who scored on a ridiculous bicycle kick in their last postseason meeting.
Rowe hurt his hip in last week’s match, it’s uncertain if he’ll be ready for today’s match although there is a possibility. If he cannot give it a go, the Revs have more than enough players capable to create chaos from an attacking standpoint. While it’s never good to give up three goals, it’s definitely a positive knowing that you can respond with three of your own. Which isn’t very shocking from New England, but it is shocking to score that much this early in the season. It typically takes them a few games to get the attack in sync. Apparently that wasn’t an issue last week, they’ll definitely have to tighten up defensively as this isn’t exactly the same D.C. United side they’re used to facing.
When things were working well last week for the Black-and-Red, much of it had to do with their pressure in midfield. They were able to dictate the tempo of the game and really keep the ball on the Galaxy’s side of the field. They really moved the ball well, which opened up lanes for players to make runs and give players space to win in 1v1 situations. Luciano Acosta and Lamar Neagle worked well together up top, Marcelo Sarvas and Nick DeLeon seemed to be in sync in the middle as well. They did well in transition in that first half, really sparking the attack by getting timely passes to the feet of Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko on the flanks. It was a much more dangerous type of attack from D.C. United, the Galaxy really struggled with it in the first frame.
Nyarko won’t be available this week and neither will Markus Halsti or Chris Korb. Fabian Espindola is listed as questionable due to a hamstring injury. It will be interesting to see who’ll receive that starting nod in Nyarko’s absence, although Miguel Aguilar wouldn’t be much of a shocker. He also brings a nice combination of pace and the ability to win 1v1. Another possibility is giving this year’s first round pick in the Super Draft a go in central midfield and bumping DeLeon out to the flanks. However, all of that may be moot if Espindola can play. Last week when Fabi came on for Nyarko, he took Neagle’s spot up top and Lamar moved back down to the flank. We’ll see what decision Coach Olsen makes later today when the starting 11 take the field.
Even though it’s a different sports, several NFL coaches talk about stacking performances. That saying is perfect for what the Black-and-Red mean to do in the next few games including today’s, they wish to improve and find a level of consistency.
If D.C. United wishes to leave New England with a win or at least a draw, it starts with consistency. Especially with their pressure in midfield, it tailed off a bit in the second half last week and it can’t if this is the style they wish to play. While they’ve been known for their ability to just “bunker” in on defense, they played a nice wide-open style of play in that first half last week. It started with that pressure, they’ll be facing an extremely talented group in midfield, but as the visiting team it’s imperative that they win that battle. The more they win in midfield, the more chances they’re able to give Acosta and Neagle up top. Those two were a handful for the Galaxy all match, really spreading the backline thin with their pace and technical ability on the ball.
They must take the fight to the Revs for the full 90 minutes, it can’t just be one half. Last week the Galaxy scored four goals in a half. New England showed that they were able to score in bunches last week as well, if D.C. United can control that area of the field while also capitalizing on their scoring opportunities, they could head back to the nation’s capital with three points in the standings.