10thingsDC0506

10 things on D.C. United

For the first time this season, the Montreal Impact travels to the United States capital. The Bleu-blanc-noir is taking on D.C. United this Saturday at 6pm EDT (TVA Sports, 98,5FM & TSN Radio 690). Here are 10 things to know on the Black-and-Red.

Context

After an up-and-down start to the season, D.C. United may have finally gained momentum. Ben Olsen’s team looked like it was only going to pick up one point in its last three games, all on the road, after Kenwyne Jones scored for Atlanta last Saturday. But D.C. United, with a formidable Bill Hamid keeping it tight between the posts, reacted with three goals of its own to clinch a first away win this season. Against the Bleu-blanc-noir, the Black-and-Red play the first of three straight games at the old RFK Stadium home, which they are set to leave for Audi Field in the summer of 2018.

Current form

L-W-W-L-D-W

Head coach

Ben Olsen (78-90-56 all-time as D.C. United head coach) has been head coach at D.C. United since November 29, 2010. First an assistant at United under Curt Onalfo, Olsen replaced him on an interim basis from August 5, 2010, to his full-time appointment at the age of only 33. A promising midfielder during his youth and a finalist to the greatest college soccer honours, Olsen was the 1998 MLS Rookie of the Year after reaching MLS Cup with D.C. United. That season set the tone for a great career topped with two MLS Cups that turned Olsen into one of the most important characters in club history. After failing to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs in his first season as head coach, Olsen then led the team to its first postseason berth in five years, reaching the Conference Final. Olsen experienced the best and worst emotions possible during the 2013 season, as his team finished dead last in the Supporters’ Shield Standings but still lifted the U.S. Open Cup after a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake in the final. Olsen then won the 2014 MLS Coach of the Year award after steering United back to first in the East.

Current top scorer

Luciano Acosta (3)

Players to watch

1. Ian Harkes (#23) – The 2016 college soccer MVP, Harkes has adapted seamlessly to the professional level with his spatial intelligence.

2. Lloyd Sam (#8) – The winger keeps serving D.C. United well on the right side, where he can take opponents on or deliver a cross.

3. Taylor Kemp (#2) – With his solid left foot, Kemp is one of the deadliest MLS defenders in the offensive phase.

Team profile

Here is what Impact Media wrote on October 26, 2016: “Organized in a low block with Marcelo Sarvas protecting the back four most of the time, the Black-and-Red try to get the ball forward quickly, either for a swift transition (as seen early on in the season) or for some hold-up play to spray the ball wide and cross, especially via Lamar Neagle, Patrick Nyarko or Lloyd Sam. Neagle’s aerial skills, as well as those of Patrick Mullins and Álvaro Saborío, provide an outlet for an efficient long ball out of the back. United can then call upon its skilled players, with Sam a definite threat in 1-v-1 situations and Luciano Acosta a solid crosser and passer of the ball. United tries to take shots from close range, and it’s all or nothing: according to Opta, 10 percent of United’s shots come from the six-yard box – the highest ratio in MLS –, and the team manages to use that zone from open play as well as from set plays. Defensively, D.C. United conceded its fair share of set-piece goals in the early weeks of the season, which came to no surprise as the team seems to enjoy challenging opponents. In open play, veteran Sean Franklin’s side holds stronger than Taylor Kemp’s side, but generally speaking, the team’s defence has improved greatly over the course of the season.”

In 2017:

Shots on target*

Goals scored from inside the penalty area

Goals scored from outside the penalty area

Goals scored on headers

6th (39)

18th (7)

5th (2)

20th (0)

Possession (%)

Big chance conversion (%)

Successful passes in attacking third (%)

Duels won (%)

22nd (40.8%)

18th (42.9%)

22nd (53.7%)

21st (46.1%)

*Source for all data is Opta

Tactical formation

Lone striker formations, midfield threes, the D.C. United of old is gone. Lineup v. Atlanta (April 30): Hamid; Franklin, Opare, Boswell, Kemp; Harkes, Jeffrey, Acosta; Sam, Le Toux, Neagle.

Most recent games against the Impact

No one could get the upper hand between the Impact and D.C. United in two 2016 regular season matchups (both were 1-1 ties), but in the MLS Cup Playoffs, the Bleu-blanc-noir was unstoppable. After Laurent Ciman opened the scoring only four minutes in, the floodgates opened: Matteo Mancosu scored a brace and assisted Nacho Piatti’s tally for a 4-2 win and a berth into the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Injuries, absences and call-ups (as of May 3)

GK Bill Hamid (groin – likely to play)
GK Eric Klenofsky (knee)
D Steve Birnbaum (concussion)
M Rob Vincent (knee)
M Patrick Nyarko (hamstring)
M Nick DeLeon (abdominal muscles)

Next games

D.C. United v Philadelphia Union (MLS, May 13)
D.C. United v Chicago Fire (MLS, May 20)
Vancouver Whitecaps FC v D.C. United (MLS, May 27)

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