DC United will look to rediscover there form at RFK Stadium on Saturday (7pm) against the also struggling, New York Red Bulls. Both the New York and DC clubs have been quite streaky to date, and both have certainly underperformed. DC currently sit ninth in the Eastern Conference (1-3-1) on 4 points, while New York sits in 7th place place (1-3-2) with a game in hand.
If DC are to be successful against a capable yet inconsistent Red Bulls starting XI, it begins with the defense. Dejan Jakovic and Brandon McDonald both must anchor the central defense and be a bit more aggressive going forward. On set pieces, Jakovic and McDonald both must take their presence known in their own penalty area and within the oppositions area in order to put pressure on the likes of Tim Cahill, Thierry Henry and Dax McCarty.
In the midfield, the Black & Red are going to need a more vocal and powerful performance out of their stable player in recent seasons, Perry Kitchen. As Kitchen continues to play a deeper holding midfield role in front of the back-line, he must not sit too deep which would inhibit the attacking pressure that DC are able to produce. Moreover, Kitchen must read the oncoming pressure better if DC are to involve both Marcos Sanchez, and Chris Pontius more – who both have gone missing in important stretches in matches this season.
Raphael Augusto may even get the nod on Saturday evening for his ability to retain possession. As Sporting KC were quick to throw pressure on a deep lying DC United, the 22-year-old was able to move the ball around the pitch more to alleviate some pressure from those behind him – especially goalkeeper Bill Hamid. The on loan central midfielder from Fluminense offers excellent vision on the pitch in the center of the park and could prove dividends should be work well with Dwayne De Rosario and Chris Pontius.
As for Pontius – thus far he has made not too big of an impact in the attacking side of matters. As DC have yet to truly take it to their opponents especially with the absence of Nick DeLeon, and the summer departure of Andy Najar, DC United has lacked a cutting edge from the wings. Although Chris Korb does enjoy finding himself in advanced positions, if he must continue to play meaningful balls into telling areas of New York's box that will indeed test the visitors.
There is no question that striker Lionard Pajoy is a work horse up front for Ben Olsen's team; however, he has not been able to convert his hard work into goals this season. Once again, Pajoy was left alone up front last weekend against Sporting KC who were able to quell any threats created while the rest of his scoring chances went well wide and rarely produced any true telling times from the goalkeeper. According to Soccer By Ives, Ben Olsen told reporters that "He needs to be better at finishing. Everybody knows that. I believe in Lio, I believe he can get a little bit of confidence. All it takes it one goal. But it hasn't been good enough. He knows that, and he's pressing to get one." And as stats indicate, his attacking woes were not only seen in the past match – the striker has put just one goal on target in the 424 minutes he's been on the pitch for DC United, which in and of itself is quite disappointing. To make matters worse, Maicon Santos etched his name onto the scoresheet for the Chicago Fire in their most recent meeting with New York.
The hopeful return of De Rosario continues to enter the DC United faithfuls minds. As Henry, Saborio and company look to break down the DC United back line, the presence of their captain may just be able to finally unlock the missing piece to the puzzle. As John Thorrington, DeLeon and Lewis Neale are all still out with injury, it is quite possible that Olsen chooses De Rosario and Rafael Gladiator over an aforementioned struggling Pajoy. Overall, it could be quite interesting if Olsen was to employ the veteran of Carlos Ruiz in a more free position behind a forward which could offer a much better attacking component – rather than a simple kick and chase that recent weeks have come to which seem to plague the side.
Overall, both DC United and the Red Bulls have had their fair share of trials and tribulations leading up to the match. As DC's home unbeaten streak is now history, looking forward to making RFK Stadium a hostile environment and Olsen's Army as the 12th man could just springboard the home side to a very crucial three points. Although the MLS season is still very young, inconsistencies early on in the season could prove costly as the middle to end of the season which seem to always fast approach us. Certainly in the first few matches of the season, there have been glimpses of some real possession based style of play but as the squad continue to suffer with injuries and other issues there has not been a real cohesive unit creating chemistry on the pitch.
All of that looks to change this Saturday evening.