Know Your Enemy: DC United

Resurgent DC United brings stingy defense into Saturday's game

DC United

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FC Dallas remained at the top of the MLS table last week with a 2-1 win over Toronto FC. Now their schedule really begins to pick up with some road games as they head to our nation’s capital this weekend to face D.C. United.

Ben Olsen’s squad had a rough 2013 season that saw them finish at the bottom of the league table. But thanks to some crafty moves to bring in veteran players, United are currently sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with eight points after six games. United are also unbeaten in their last four matches going 2-0-2 with wins over New England and New York.

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In the lone meeting between these sides last season, FC Dallas downed United 2-1 in Frisco thanks to a late goal from Je-Vaughn Watson.

FC Dallas is 3-2-5 in their last ten games at RFK Stadium however, having last won there in 2010.

Injury Watch

Olsen’s club has a couple of long-term injuries to discuss at the moment. None may be bigger than forward Chris Pontius, who just had surgery this week to repair his hamstring. The 2009 SuperDraft pick will be out for four to six months. Michael Seaton is also out with an ankle injury.

Midfielder Luis Silva has been dealing with an ankle injury lately, while defender Chris Korb has been sidelined with a hamstring injury of his own.

MLSsoccer.com Scouting Report

Key Matchups

Perry Kitchen vs Mauro Diaz - United are a team that does give up a good share of fouls and Kitchen is one of the main reasons for that. In 2014, Kitchen has committed 13 fouls, good enough for second on United’s team. Diaz has shown this season to be a tricky player for opposing teams to handle and will almost certainly draw a few fouls in this one from Kitchen.

Fabian Espindola vs Matt Hedges - The Argentine forward is currently United’s top scorer with two goals and two assists on the season. He works well at getting into the pockets around the defense and has proven to be a headache for teams with his relentless pressure. Hedges will have to keep a watchful eye on where Espindola goes in this one, in order to keep the United attack at bay.

Key Player for D.C. United

Eddie Johnson - The veteran attacker hasn’t had a great start to his 2014 campaign. But the one thing Dallas fans know about Johnson is that when he gets hot, he is one tough player to stop. Currently Johnson has yet to score through six games this season for the Black-and-Red but he did score three goals against FCD in 2013.

Projected Lineup

Olsen uses a fairly straight forward 4-4-2 formation.

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Goalkeeper: Bill Hamid; RB: Sean Franklin; CB: Bobby Boswell, Jeff Parke; LB: Christian; RM: Nick DeLeon; CM: Davy Arnaud, Perry Kitchen; LM: Chris Rolfe; FW: Fabian Espindola, Eddie Johnson.

Keys to three points

Going on the road in this league is never an easy task, but FC Dallas has proven so far this year with trips to Kansas City and Houston that they can get results in any environment. They’ll need to pull from those experiences this weekend when they face a very determined United team.

United do a good job at frustrating teams on defense, sitting deep and forcing them off their game. Adding veteran players to the mix in the offseason like Bobby Boswell, Davy Arnaud, Sean Franklin and Jeff Parke has turned a defense that was leaking goals left and right last year into one of the better groups in 2014.

But the one area that Dallas can really focus in on is drawing fouls in dangerous spots. United have given up their fair share of fouls this season. FCD will want to use their speed on the wings with Fabian Castillo and Je-Vaughn Watson to frustrate the United defenders into committing costly fouls. A third of United’s goals given up this season have come from set pieces or penalty kicks.

FCD will also want to focus on playing their game for 90 minutes. United isn’t a team that possesses the ball for long stretches of the game either. If Dallas can make the most of their possession and set piece chances, they’ll have a good chance at leaving Washington, D.C. with three points.