Of course the big news is DC quite possibly being the first team to get a crack at another designated player after Beckham made his debut three weeks ago. Denilson, an attacking wizard still just 30 years of age, who won a World Cup in 2002 with Brazil was just signed this week. Since the World Cup, he’s bounced around Europe a bit, then faded to play in his native Brazil and most recently in Saudi Arabia. Remarkably, his paperwork has cleared quickly and he’s likely to come on as a second half sub.
However, DC will face a tough match even without Denilson taking the pitch. As Dallas proved with a 3-3 tie in RFK a few weeks ago, they can score goals with anyone in the league. Obviously, Toja and Ruiz are the daggermen who punished DC in that match, but Arturo Alvarez and the young Brazilian Ricardinho they signed last month are quite a handful to control as well.
The dicey Dallas defense has always been their Achilles heel. Yet with the return of Sala and Adrian Serioux from injury they’ve tightened that up considerably of late, the loss to Houston notwithstanding. So, while DC has no reason to feel outclassed by the Dallas side, they might well struggle find their way out to another 3-0 lead like they did in RFK.
Soehn has a wealth of choices for his lineup as well. Emilio and Ben Olsen have recently returned from resting their ankle and hamstrings respectively. Olsen should certainly slide into an outside role rested and ready to explode on the scoresheet like he seems to do every other match, and while Emilio might not start in Dallas, but he should be available for a boost in the second half depending on how the game plays out.
Yet the most interesting decision will be Soehn’s handling of Boswell. Last year’s defender of the year, and acknowledged defensive leader has suddenly become a non-person in the new regime. I think Boswell has to get a shot to salvage his starting spot and pair with Vanney just to see if that partnership has any future. McTavish deserves a rest and will still be in the mix, but if Boswell continues to languish on the bench, disgruntlement can’t be far away.
One huge help is that United actually matches up well against Dallas. FCD plays a pretty straight up 4-3-3, which presents no particular problems tactically for DC’s 4-4-2. Both teams look to possess and use quick passing to open up chances in the middle. Dallas has a bit more speed in the attack, while DC has a bit more precision, while both teams have solid if unspectacular defenses and goalkeepers despite Perkins player of the month award for August.
Moreno and Kpene (or Emilio) going against Serioux and Goodson is an edge for DC in the box. And given that Richetti and McCarty have outside responsibilities in their system, Gomez might actually have a bit of space to operate for once which could be the difference for DC if he truly takes control of the ball in midfield. Even better is that Simms is far more suited to control Toja than Carroll was, so that particular flaw which hampered DC from closing out a 3-0 advantage in RFK has been rectified.
Olsen and Namoff should be able to contain Ricardinho and Gbandi well enough on the right, and if Benny gets upfield enough to unbalance the Dallas defense this matchup clearly swings United’s way. Fred and Burch against Alvarez and Moor is pretty good for DC too. As good as Alvarez has been playing of late, Fred has been just as good and even more effective on the scoresheet.
Even defensively, DC doesn’t look too bad matching up with Dallas’ vaunted offense. That dratted anchovy will no doubt get yet another goal against us, but while Ricardinho, Alvarez, and even Denilson represent all that is flashy in the soccer world, that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans against a smart defense, and DC has looked like they have a PhD in airtight organization lately.
United’s overall record in Dallas doesn’t look too good at 5-10-1, but most of those hideous results were in the Cotton Hole. Since Pizza Hut Park opened, United has been on the upswing in terms of results with two straight one goal wins and maybe the soccer gods finally feel that DC’s appalling record down there needs to continue getting closer to respectability.
And the soccer gods have been smiling on DC for the past month that’s for sure. Early goals have dropped on us like manna from heaven. Reis and Waterreus have spilled the ball allowing Gros and Olsen to poke in easy finishes, while Fred got a good bounce off the Toronto keeper’s shin and Cannon let a long shot slip through his fingers to all give DC early leads. Then there has been the good bounces like deflecting a shot off Hejduk’s left cheek right to Fred and EZ setting up Emilio perfectly for the clincher in Columbus.
To be sure, DC’s hard work and skill has put them in position to take advantage of those things, but the fact remains that for every bad bounce DC was punished for early in the season they are reaping the karmic backlash now. Let’s hope it continues.
Should United win, DC will be tied with NE, who is idle this weekend, for the Eastern Conference lead at 42 points and best record in MLS overall. United still has one game in hand on NE, but will play that game in LA Thursday night when they take on ChivasUSA. United hosts NE at RFK the following Sunday in a showdown for the East with everyone square on games played.