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Know Your Enemy: DC United – Meeting the First - Part One – The Lineup and the Form

The first installment of the Know Your Enemy series, previewing TFC's upcoming opponent, DC United, focusing on their lineup and form.

Cup-Winning Teammates Go Tete-a-Tete on Saturday
Cup-Winning Teammates Go Tete-a-Tete on Saturday

Not a bad way to start the season, eh?

While hardly the perfect outing, a 1-2 win in Seattle was honestly much better than most had expected.

Stage two of the 34-step plan for world domination is set for Saturday, when Toronto FC hosts DC United in the home opener at BMO Field.

But what lies ahead with this next victim?

DC suffered through a historically bad season in 2013, undergoing heavy roster reconstruction in the off-season, only to collapse in their first, and only, match of the season thus far.

United coach, Ben Olsen, has his side braced for a challenge against a club that he called, "The Real Deal", forgetting to add "Bloody" and "Big", as per the marketing guidelines.

Saturday; 4:30 pm; BMO Field, in what looks to be rather fittingly wet and cold weather for a soccer match in Toronto.

But before that, a closer look at the enemy is in order. 

The Lineup

It is standard for MLS clubs to undergo significant roster turnover through the off-season, but DC took that to a whole new level with over a third of their roster leaving.

Gone are veterans Dwayne De Rosario, James Riley, John Thorrington, and Carlos Ruiz, who had their options declined; Dejan Jakovic, who was transferred to Japan (Shimizu S-Pulse, for those curious); and a few promising rookies, trading Ethan White to Philadelphia and straight-up waiving Casey Townsend.

To replenish their diminished ranks, Olsen turned his eyes towards the league, stocking up on tried and tested MLS-talent, often of the experienced variety.

They got started early, claiming Sean Franklin and Bobby Boswell in the first stage of the Re-Entry Draft, before adding Fabian Espindola and Nana Attakora in Stage Two, formerly of LA, Houston, New York, and San Jose respectively.

The rebuild continued with a series of trades that saw Davy Arnaud arrive from Montreal, Eddie Johnson from Seattle, Jeff Parke from Philadelphia, while making the transfer of Conor Doyle, who arrived midseason on loan from Derby County, permanent and drafting promising centre-back Steve Birnbaum second-overall in the SuperDraft.

Olsen and General Manager, Dave Kasper, had a very busy off-season indeed.

While the veteran cast got a reshuffle, United kept firm with a core group of younger players - Bill Hamid, Perry Kitchen, Chris Pontius, and Nick DeLeon - who have served the club well over the past few seasons and additions from last year who managed to shine against the unrelenting dim - Jared Jeffrey, Luis Silva, and Kyle Porter.

Barring any unannounced injuries, which are becoming harder and harder to detect these days, there is little reason for Olsen to deviate from the starting eleven that trotted out on opening day.

Their projected starting lineups is as follows: Bill Hamid in goal; from right to left, Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Jeff Parke, and Cristian Fernandez across the back; Perry Kitchen protecting the back four with Davy Arnaud, Luis Silva, and Nick DeLeon through the middle of the park; Eddie Johnson and Fabian Espindola paired up top.

football formations

Aside from the Chris’ Pontius and Korb, who were unavailable due to a hamstring concern and off-season knee surgery, respectively, latest homegrown signing, defender Jalen Robinson, and the trio of Joe Willis, Collin Martin, and Christiano Francois, who koined Richmond on loan at the end of February, Olsen had a full complement of players to choose from for opening day.

It was an underwhelming performance and DC has plenty of potential starters on the bench, but there is little sense in juggling one’s lineup so early in the year.

That said, expect to see Porter and Doyle appear as injections of attack in the later portions of the match, while Lewis Neal and Jeffrey can help solidify a midfield should DC have a lead to protect, or they get overrun.

Fans in Toronto got a glimpse of seventeen-year old Jamaican forward Michael Seaton last fall – do not be surprised if he factors in over the course of the season.

The Form

DC would cap off their preseason by hoisting the Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston.

They won their first match 2-0 against Houston, followed that up with a draw against tournament hosts, Charleston Battery, 1-1 in their second, before taking the silverware after a 2-2 draw against Seattle - goal differential being the tiebreaker.

They opened the regular season on March 8th, hosting Columbus at RFK Stadium in DC – it did not go as planned.

DC’s new back-line was exploited viciously by the right-side of the Columbus attack, with Josh Williams ultimately delivering the ball for Jairo Arrieta to sweep in after eighteen minutes.

Nine minutes later Federico Higuain added a second from the penalty spot after Kitchen was determined to have obstructed Michael Parkhurst from getting on the end of a free-kick in the box.

Higuain struck again for good measure in the final minute of regulation, placing a cutback from Justin Meram neatly in the bottom corner after a sweeping build up the left.

They were not involved last weekend.

Part Two, reviewing the game film for strengths and weaknesses, will be posted tomorrow morning.