Continuing Waking the Red's build in the twelfth game of the 2015 season, WTR exchanged some questions with Ben Bromley of SB Nation's DC United site, Black and Red United, to shed some light on the opponent from their perspective.
Question the First
Despite injuries and a punishing fixture list, Ben Olsen, one of the new generation of promising MLS coaches, has this DC United team humming along. What is it that he bring to this club that stumbled for years after dominating the early days of MLS and as first a player and then manager how much is he appreciated by the DC faithful? One gets the sense, given the turnover and constant rebuilding going on in Toronto it will be years before TFC is blessed with such a figure. In that spirit, what would it take for Olsen's position to be questioned?
One thing that Ben Olsen has gotten is enough time to implement his plan, which TFC coaches have never had. He built up enough goodwill in 2011 and 2012 that he could bank it in 2013; that confidence was born out in 2014 and then in 2015. A US Open Cup, an Eastern Conference Title, and he is just getting started.
There is no chance that Olsen gets fired before the new stadium opens, likely in 2018. He is a club icon, and the current management has faith in him. The only possibility would be if he tanked until then, but I don't see that happening.
Question the Second
Through this busy spell DC's depth has really been tested. It's not just the sheer weight of fixtures, but injuries and the occasional suspension has further complicated matters. The club has navigated it well and squad players have stepped up. But the question must be asked: does DC have the depth to last the entire season if the fitness of key players, namely Luis Silva, Fabian Espindola, Chris Pontius, and even Bill Hamid, continues to dog the side? Feel free to espouse the qualities of future Canadian National Teamer Kofi Opare here too.
Chris Pontius has been completely fit this season, and is currently in the top five of minutes played for United; his injuries aren't usually dogging injuries, they are usually catastrophic. Fabian Espindola doesn't really have a history of injuries, and has just came back from his; Luis Silva has had a weird vitamin deficiency, so hopefully they can fix that and he will be good to go down the stretch.
Bill Hamid's day to day injuries are likely just to give him time to rest in this meat grinder of a May/June, and Kofi Opare has been a solid replacement for Steve Birnbaum.
Question the Third
A bit of a grab-bag of topics here: What is the latest news in the Buzzard Point stadium plan, as it seems to have lost momentum of late? An interesting signing, what does Facundo Coria bring to the side? And has there been any news on the Eddie Johnson situation, he was always a divisive player, but it is safe to say when it concerns health, everyone who follows this league is sympathetic to his position?
There is a lot of questions about the Buzzard Point stadium at the moment, because United seems to be entertaining the idea of a stadium in Virginia instead right now. That would be an awful idea, so I hope that it doesn't happen.
Facundo Coria has played well in substitute appearances so far, and his contract is a low risk-high reward deal for United. The only info on the EJ situtation is that it looks like he will retire, and United will get some cap space. It has been a horrible situation for him, and he played better than most people thought last year. A replacement is necessary.
Over the last several seasons DC has been on quite the rollercoaster ride, starting from the bottom, climbing high, then falling lower than before, only to surge into their current position atop both tables – Toronto knows something about half of that process; it's been a smoother ride, but less enjoyable. Is this season's lofty perch just setting up for a massive fall? Perhaps another first round playoff defeat to New York or Philadelphia? Can DC feel Toronto breathing down their necks yet?
D.C. United's horrid seasons have always been there from the start. 2010 was not Ben Olsen's fault, that was the fault of Kevin Payne and Curt Onalfo. From there he built the team up through 2011 into 2012, and then the team just collapsed in 2013. That team started off bad, and never got any better. So I don't see a massive midseason fall happening for this team.
The playoffs are another story; they need to perform better this season than they did in 2014. Challenging for the Eastern Conference title is really what this team should be looking for. At this point, United is far enough ahead that they don't feel anyone breathing down their neck.
Prediction? Goal-scorers? Lineup?
I will go with a 2-1 win for United, with Chris Rolfe and Fabian Espindola scoring for United, and Giovinco scoring for TFC. For a lineup, I see Bill Hamid; Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, Taylor Kemp; Nick DeLeon, Perry Kitchen, Markus Halsti, Chris Pontius; Fabian Espindola, Jairo Arrieta
Many thanks to Ben for spending some time with Waking the Red – he can be followed on Twitter @BRUBromley – and be sure to check out all the latest United news over at Black and Red United.
Waking the Red's answers to their questions can be found here