Now With Fewer Galacticos! | a DC United Preview

The last time United trotted around Qwest Field, we grabbed a 1-1 draw against Real Madrid. Tonight's opposition will boast far fewer galacticos and far more nauseating green shirts and marching bands. With an extra game this week, United have an opportunity to pad their newfound lead atop the Eastern Conference, though both games will be tough road affairs against mid-tier Western Conference sides. Without further ado, let's hit the player news...

Player News
  • Jaime Moreno is out with injury, while Crayton (bye, bye Louis) did not travel, and Peters + DiRaimondo are on short-term loans in USL2 (remind me again why we have a third-string center back playing USL2 games occupying a senior roster spot?)
  • Seattle's injury woes are more numerous, with backup GK Eylander, defenders Scott (a one-time starter) and Graham, plus reserve forward Jarrod Smith all out. They have a couple of other players carrying knocks, but all are at least probable to go against us, the most notable being Christopher Sullivan's man-crush, midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (note to Sulli: he is not Javier Mascherano).
  • Nobody is suspended from either team, though a quick glance over "the list" reveals that four United players are two cautions away from suspension: Gomez (okay, Fred or the Phoenix can fill in), Wallace (um, Benny's getting healthy, right?), Jakovic (oh dear, well, Janicki can answer the call for one game, can't he?), and Simms (uh-oh).

What to Watch
  • Lessons of the turf. We've played a few matches on the bouncy stuff, and I think it's been obvious that we've played better when we favor fast, physical play and less of the technical stuff. Considering the nice, natural surface at the Dick, I think Soehn might consider a bit of rotation, opting for speed and strength in Seattle and technique in Denver.
  • Winning the midfield. Seattle boast a variety of attacking tools, from the movement and vision of Ljungberg, to the size and strength of Jaqua, to the speed and flair of Zakuani and Montero, so it will be key to win the midfield battle and deny them service.
  • Minimize mistakes. I've seen a little of Seattle this year, and they've always seemed to me to be more comfortable on the break than in sustained periods of possession. We will get time on the ball, but we need to be smart with it. Losing the ball in bad positions in midfield and defense will open the door to what Seattle so desperately want to exploit.

Line 'Em Up

I see some questions brewing, so here's my thinking...
  • While it's tempting to rotate in a few defenders, I think you've got to keep this group getting minutes together. Subs may be in order to keep them all fresh, but getting a settled and solid back line is more important.
  • Wallace does make far too many mistakes in midfield for my liking, and I did mark eliminating mistakes as one of my keys to watch in this match, but he also brings a range, energy, and speed that will be key on the bouncy field against quick opposition.
  • Khumalo is included because (1) he's fast and (2) his play in the last match demanded more minutes. I put him on the right because I want our deadliest finishers in the middle, ready to pounce, and I think his presence on that flank may force Zakuani to play deeper to offer assistance to his fullback.
  • Fred? Really? Fred is massively more effective in the middle, and his excellent display on the plastic stuff in New England gives me hope for a similar performance here. Likewise, I've included Emilio because the two of them linked well in New England, and because he'll be hungry after his suspension. Subbing him out around the hour mark to keep him fresh for Colorado would seem to be in order. As for keeping Gomez out of the lineup, Goff mentioned a wrap on his knee, and I'd rather not risk him on turf. The same has to be said of Olsen, right?


So, with all of that said, what are my expectations going into this match? Seattle haven't been on a spectacular run of late, though they did manage to win the last time out against a struggling Quakes side. Despite that win, they did look vulnerable. I want to believe, but I do get the nagging suspicion that we might get caught napping here. Here's hoping my intuition sucks.

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