DC United will look to rebound against a very well organized Sporting Kansas City side on Friday night at (LIVESTRONG) Sporting Park at 8:30pm. After an extended break for the Black & Red, Ben Olsen's starting XI should come right out of the gates swinging. Although DC lost a real heartbreak against the Columbus Crew in their last outing this period of no MLS matches really gave Olsen time to get his side "back to the basics." For the first four games of the season, DC have lacked a cutting-edge attacking mentality and instead focused more on defensive posture. Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic, James Riley and Chris Korb have all seen their fair share of the ball so far this season – and perhaps too much.
According to The Washington Post, Dwyane De Rosario will miss the match on Friday as he suffered an injury in a scrimmage against the Richmond Kickers last week and has not featured at full strength at all during this week. The absence of their captain makes it even harder for DC United to regain their footing in the Eastern Conference and will need to add attacking prowess immediately to start picking up crucial points. De Rosario has had a few injury plagued months and this recent injury sets back the United progression even more so.
Sporting KC currently sit in third place in the Eastern Conference after five matches (2-1-2) and sit with eight points. On the other hand, DC United have struggled to find their form so far this season and are in a lowly eighth place (1-2-1) on only four points. The 2012/13 MLS season is still very young and all sides will have plenty of adjustments to make throughout the season; however, DC United should place further emphasis on finding their footing in the attack.
Should DC United create a successful season this year and build off of last season's successes, the midfield must solidify itself to ease the pressure from the defensive unit. Perry Kitchen has quickly proven himself as a reliable defender; however, at times the youngster tends to sit too far deep allowing oncoming pressure enter the attacking third. Whomever starts in the center of midfield whether it be Marcelo Saragosa, Lewis Neale or Kitchen, a more possession based style should be adapted to conjure up more attacking efforts.
The United midfield could have plenty of trouble and work to do on Friday evening if Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic continue their excellent build-up play from the back. Moreover, with the new addition of Benny Feilhaber to the KC side, he offers not only an offensive minded mentality, but also a very poised presence on the ball in which he can pick the passes to both the onrushing defensive backs and the speedster of Zusi alongside the flanks.
Sporting KC have plenty of talent in their roster both on the attacking and defensive ends, and are coming off a win over the Montreal Impact last week. Players like Graham Zusi have plenty of attacking talents in the final third and love to pressure the defensive who many times cough up possession in their own end leading to either a goal or additional chances. However, Olsen believes his side are ready for any challenge that KC may throw their way as he told the DC United website "The guys are looking forward to the challenge. We've done a pretty good job in the past of responding to loses, so I hope that's the case." In order to be successful in this match, Chris Pontius must create a partnership with Sanchez and Kitchen that allows them all to get their fair share of touches during the match, but also venture forward to finding Lionard Pajoy or whomever else in the penalty area.
After his wonder-strike against the Crew a week back, Rafael may get the nod over Pajoy who has been struggling to find consistency thus far. Alongside the wings, Pontius and Marcos Sanchez will likely resume those duties in front of outside backs of Riley and Korb. United seem to be most effective going forward with Pontius creating space out-wide while Marcos Sanchez could be given a more free flowing play in the center of the park right behind the striker. Furthermore, DC have yet to look threatening from their attack which may force Olsen to fielding two strikers which could include Carlos Ruiz and Rafael. Playing in a 4-4-2 formation could allow for greater presence in the final third to take down what has been a very solid KC back-line so far.