It’s only the fifth game of the season, but it’s important for the Black-and-Red to get a result in this new style of play. They need a much needed confidence boost, it’s far too early for panic, but three point would certainly change things for a team that is growing through a frustrating period. Anytime there’s a bunch of changes to personnel and a change in identity in regards to their style of play, it takes a few wins for everyone to fully buy in and believe that the new direction works. With Marcelo Sarvas out due to suspension, it’ll be interesting to see who gets the start inside next to Nick DeLeon in central midfield. That player will have a huge responsibility in both the attack and defense.
The challenge tonight is to take down a San Jose club that is coming off a two week break, which means a team with fresh legs. The negative in that, is that like D.C. United they are missing a few players due to injury and there’s sure to be some rust. The biggest task for the visitors may be keeping Chris Wondolowski in check, the veteran striker has started the season on fire. Wondo’s tallied three goals in three games this season, D.C. United may want to end that streak in hopes of victory.
Here’s what needs to happen for the Black-and-Red to get their first result of the season:
Stop the self inflicted wounds. This is for the backline, several of the goals surrendered this season were the well earned or well deserved variety. Far too many have been self inflicted. Not calling a teammate off of a ball, getting too far up field and opening a lane, and sometimes just poor marking. Even with the change in style of play, D.C. United’s ability to defend shouldn’t have suffered this much and it’s not a personnel issue as the backline is one of the few areas of the starting 11 that hasn’t changed. It’s about getting back to the basics, without the booming voice of Bill Hamid barking orders, it’s on the backline to sure things up as Travis Worra is making just his fourth career start.
Transition better. If you follow us on twitter, it’s something that was tweeted numerous times in last week’s match. With the Black-and-Red deciding to utilize that midfield pressure, it’s imperative that both the them midfield and backline don’t get caught to far up field as it puts the team at a huge disadvantage trying to defend the counter attack. Especially the central midfielders, with the outside backs pushing up the flanks, it’s imperative that they get back and fill the void left by the centre backs that are dropping wide in transition until the outside backs get home. Too may times last week, Boswell and Opare went wide to fill those gaps, but the central midfielders were late trailing and the numbers game went in favor of the opponent.
Less touches. Some of the best attacking stretches for D.C. United this season have come when the ball was flying around the field, switching sides and putting pressure on the defense. With the new additions has come speed and creativity, giving them a different type of attack then in past seasons. It’s felt like the team has been fighting itself at times in this regard, there have been stretches of the new brand where the ball is moving and the defense is scrambling and then long stretches of the slow, methodical, attack in which far too many touches are used. If D.C. United wishes to get it’s first result, it means moving the ball from side to side, making quicker decisions on the ball and committing to runs off the ball.
Use the flanks. One of the areas in which the Black-and-Red struggled last week was when they won the ball on the defensive end, instead of playing it up the flanks by using a short outlet, the ball was just dumped into midfield and usually given right back to the opponent. Patrick Nyarko and Lamar Neagle are great outlets out wide, both have the pace and skill to put pressure on a team and spark a quick counter attack. They have to do a much better job of getting Neagle involved out wide, Nyarko has been and he’s proven to be nothing but trouble for opposing teams.
Maintain the pressure for 90. This is huge, there have been halves this season where their pressure has led to a bunch of opportunities for the attack. Then, the lulls come and the pressure weakens which has led to opponents taking advantage of the extra space and time on the ball. Allowing them to take the fight to D.C. Four games in and there still hasn’t been a game in which that pressure was maintained for the duration of the match.