Guest columnist Drew Epperley is the founder and editor of WVHooligan.com. His blog covers everything MLS and U.S. Soccer. You can follow him on Twitter @WVHooligan.
FC Dallas hopes to improve their 1-1-1 overall record Friday evening in our nation’s capital when they take on D.C. United (0-2-1, 1 point).
In last year’s two matches with United – both games ended level – with neither team scoring a single goal.
So far this season United has struggled at finding the back of the net as they have only scored one goal in three games – twice being shutout.
Power up top
D.C. manager Ben Olsen has plenty of offensive weapons that are just itching to score this season. It is only a matter of time before the 2011 MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario finds the back of the net or at least helps assist on a goal.
De Rosario will likely start with former FC Dallas striker Macon Santos or Designated Player Hamdi Salihi. The DP from Albania hasn’t made as big of a splash yet for United but given his track record the man knows how to annoy defenders and score goals.
Dallas fans will be familiar with Santos and his shot taking ability. So far the Brazilian has registered nine shots this season, but none have hit the target.
De Rosario will still likely be the focal point of the attack for Ben Olsen’s club. The Canadian is still getting use to his new teammates and possibly just needs another home game like this one to finally break out of his shell.
United’s other Designated Player resides in the midfield for United. Montenegrin midfielder Branko Boskovic has been coming off the bench in the first three games. Should he start along De Rosario in the middle of the midfield, it could add a solid one-two punch in the center of the park.
If Olsen opts not to go with his DP in the midfield, he could start another familiar face to FC Dallas fans in the form of Brazilian Marcelo Saragosa. The 30-year old spent three seasons with Dallas before being traded to Chivas USA in the summer of 2010.
On the wings United will be without Honduran Andy Najar, who is still with the Honduran U-23 national side that is attempting to qualify for the Summer Olympics in London. In his place will likely be Chris Pontius, the fourth-year star has returned from breaking his leg last season.
Opposite him should either be rookie Nick DeLeon or Danny Cruz. DeLeon is United’s only goal scorer on the season coming in their 3-1 loss at the LA Galaxy.
Growing pains in defense
Depth in defense was an issue in 2011 for Olsen. But going into the new season he brought in a couple newcomers that have already found a place in the starting line up. Right fullback Robbie Russell came over from Real Salt Lake to help provide some grit and veteran leadership to the defense.
Along with Russell, United signed Argentinian Emiliano Dudar in the offseason. Dubar has started one game so far this season along side Brandon McDonald in the center of the defense.
Left fullback has been a bit of a tough spot for United. So far this season Daniel Woolard and second-year defender Chris Korb have filled in that position.
In goal, Olsen will be without his normal number one keeper. Bill Hamid picked up an injury with the US U-23 national team in Nashville during this week. In his place will likely be Josh Willis.
Keys to the game
Olsen typically uses a 4-4-2 formation but in the 0-0 draw at Vancouver last week he did shift his midfield into a diamond four with De Rosario sitting below Santos and Sahili. Dallas could see this again on Friday as it did help create plenty of offensive chances for United against the Whitecaps.
Stopping De Rosario in the attack is the main point that Dallas will have to focus on. United has pace and skill on the wings but an aggressive team that plays the possession game well can control the game against the Black-and-Red.
Dallas will have to be smart in the back and not allow too many set pieces. United has had some good chances so far this season from set pieces with De Rosario taking the bulk of them.