Know Your Enemy: DC United – Meeting the Second

Familiar Faces Could Haunt TFC this Weekend - Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

A single installment of the Know Your Enemy series, previewing TFC's upcoming opponenet, DC United

Pitiful; last weekend’s meek performance resulted in a loss in Columbus, one made worse with the revelation that Matias Laba would be out for a month with a broken toe.

But a week on, it’s back to the fray, with Toronto FC bound for Washington DC to reunite with old friends and face United.

A battle for the basement, though even that potential excitement has been decreased by a seven point gap – Toronto in front.

So what’s the point?

Well, that is a good question.

One could argue for pride, though last weekend’s display indicates there’s little of that about. Perhaps jobs are on the line; that could be something.

The time has come to admit there are no playoffs and that preseason 2014 is squarely the focus – as if it hasn’t been all year.

But enough sad-sack Toronto, this is about DC, themselves looking forward to next season.

It has been a little over two months since the two last met, but much has changed under the guidance of Ben Olsen.

Much of what was written before holds true – Parts One and Two, but a closer look at the enemy is in order.

Recent Form

It has been a tough year in the American capital.

24 matches played - 17 losses; 14 goals for - 40 against; shutout in 13 and winless on the road.

Grim figures for any club.

DC sit firmly at the bottom of the league, trailing both Toronto and Chivas by seven and five points, respectively.

However, changes have come; a youth movement has started, including the debut of the first MLS player born after the start of the league in 1996, with Michael Seaton entering against Philadelphia two weeks ago.

In the nine matches since the last meeting, DC has found a modicum of success – winning two matches and drawing another, while keeping most close, aside from a 4-1 loss in Chicago, and never losing more than two in row.

And then there’s the US Open Cup, where wins over New England and Chicago have earned their spot in the Final – to be played October 1 at Salt Lake.

After losing to Toronto, Chris Pontius’ penalty kick was enough to beat San Jose in DC, snapping a winless run at thirteen matches. A 3-1 victory over the Revolution in the Open Cup raised hope, but losses to Vancouver – 0-1 to a controversial Camilo penalty kick – and Seattle – 2-0, a Obafemi Martins brace – followed in short order.

Then came a hard-fought scoreless draw in Colorado before that tough 4-1 loss in Chicago – two goals inside the first fifteen minutes (from Chris Rolfe and Joel Lindpere) pretty much decided the outcome; Rolfe would add another before half-time and Magee after, before Luis Silva grabbed some consolation.

Silva would strike again, early against New England at home, but a pair of goals in the second half, within nine minutes, from Dimitry Imbongo and Diego Fagundez would hand United another loss a week later.

With August came a win, just their third of the season, 3-1 over Montreal. Silva again grabbed the opener, only for Jeb Brovsky to level after half-time. But Conor Doyle nabbed his first in the 68th and set up Jared Jeffrey for his in stoppage-time.

A strong midweek display in Chicago, winning 0-2, would see them into the Open Cup Final, but with the weekend came another loss, 2-0 in Philadelphia – a match that featured their youngest-ever lineup, 23.2 years on average, including all five of the homegrown players on their books – on two goals from Conor Casey.

And most recently, this past weekend, a 2-1 loss in Montreal, the Impact powered by a Marco Di Vaio brace; the winner struck just two minutes after Doyle had leveled the match shortly after subbing on.

DC enter Saturday’s match on a two-game losing streak.

Last Meeting

June 15 – DC 1: Toronto 2

Former Red, Dwayne De Rosario would open the scoring in the 19th minute from the spot, after Gale Agbossoumonde was adjudged – somewhat harshly – to have tripped up Nick DeLeon after a run into the box.

But Robert Earnshaw responded with his sixth of the season eleven minutes later, climbing – literally – over Brandon McDonald to win the header from a deep Steven Caldwell free-kick to the back-post.

Eleven was the number of the day, as Daniel Woolard watched in horror in the 41st when a Silva’s free-kick from long range – still playing for Toronto at the time; he would be traded three weeks later – skimmed off his head and nestled inside the right-side of the goal – it was DC’s third own-goal against of the season

The win snapped TFC’s winless streak at eleven – their first in three months and their first road win of the season.

Projected Lineup

As with the last meeting, projecting DC’s lineup is a bit of a crapshoot.

A lengthy injury list includes Chris Pontius, Lionard Pajoy, Marcelo Saragosa, Casey Townsend, Sainey Nyassi, and Taylor Kemp, somewhat limiting their options.

But the acquisitions of Conor Doyle – on loan from Derby County, Jared Jeffrey – via a waiver draft, and Dennis Iapichino – formerly of Montreal, signed after he was released by the Impact, as well as the return to fitness of Lewis Neal, after a season blighted by numerous injuries, has given Olsen a number of options.

Their projected lineup for Saturday is as follows: Bill Hamid in goal; from right to left – Chris Korb, Dejan Jakovic, Daniel Woolard, and James Riley across the back; Perry Kitchen sitting in the midfield with Nick DeLeon, John Thorrington, and Kyle Porter across the pitch; Luis Silva plays at the central attacking midfielder, slightly behind Dwayne De Rosario, the lone forward.

football formations

This is the same lineup they ran out against Montreal, no compelling reason to change as things stand – with a few caveats.

Backup keeper, Joe Willis, started five-straight league matches, while Hamid was away with the national team, remaining in situ for a league and a cup match even after the number one returned. He is a solid stand in, though Hamid should hold onto that position.

Iapichino, having only joined the club last Thursday, made his debut in the final moments against his former team on the weekend and is an option at left-back, though unlikely to displace Riley at the moment.

Ethan White and Conor Shanosky, young centre-backs, are options for the future, while Jeffrey could displace Thorrington, if Olsen opts for some younger legs in the midfield.

United will likely be looking to win this match, so it would not be too surprising if Thorrington was removed - leaving Kitchen as the lone holder – and De Rosario dropped deeper, with Doyle was brought in to top the formation.

Keep an eye out for Collin Martin – who picked up an assist in his first appearance – and Michael Seaton – who made the aforementioned moment of league history, though they are more likely to join from the bench; same with Neal, who will still be looking to gain match fitness.

Additional Notes

The DC attack will have a familiar feel on Saturday.

Luis Silva is in fine form since arriving in town – he has three goals and an assist in his four league matches, adding a further assist in the Open Cup Semifinal.

Whether from distance – as in this beautiful consolation strike against Chicago.

Or closer to goal – as with this strike against Montreal – Silva has been a wonderful acquisition for DC.

He has filled the void in the heart of the DC attack, a flank-heavy outfit that was relying on De Rosario to cover too much ground in the middle.

TFC will have to watch him closely and close him down – unlike what they did to Federico Higuain.

Just in time for Toronto, De Rosario has been rounding into form, reinvigorated by the acquisition of youthful attackers and finally fit after a start-stop season – he scored the game-winner in the Open Cup Semi; clutch as ever.

Doyle in particular has been a very bright addition, who, despite having never scored a goal previously in his professional career, has proved a very good finisher.

His near-post run and finish on a left-sided James Riley cross was superbly taken.

While his strike in Montreal was equally tidy, the mark of a true finisher.

DC has scored six goals in their last five games raising their average to 0.58 per match – yes, raising.

For all the attacking advances they’ve made, their defending is still very suspect.

They are stretched far too easily in transition, as with Marco Di Vaio’s second goal on the weekend, where a midfield turnover allowed Patrice Bernier to float a ball forward, isolating Di Vaio on Jakovic, who failed to prevent the striker from cutting in and scoring.

Note how slow Korb was to track back and help out his fellow defender.

Toronto should look to free up Robert Earnshaw with balls into those wide spaces.

A lack of pace and awareness proved costly against Chicago, when Joel Lindpere’s excellent ball over the top played in Chris Rolfe for his second of the night.

The back-line proved similarly weak against Montreal, watch how easily Jeb Brovsky sliced through to score his first of the season after a simple one-two with Davy Arnaud down the right-side of the box.

Their marking on service from wide areas can be terrible – with New England’s midfield runners causing all sorts of confusion on Dimitry Imbongo’s goal

Jonathan Osorio should commit forward when Bobby Convey or Jeremy Brockie get on the ball on the flanks.

It is a flaw that has looks especially weak at the back-post, such as when Conor Casey added his second for Philadelphia.

Nobody even seems to notice Casey as he curls out to the right – odd, given how big of a target he is.

Toronto’s win back in June was just their second in eight matches in DC. United have won four, while the other two ended drawn.

The two will meet for a third and final time in Toronto on September 28.

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