This is a very important short week for the New York Red Bulls: after beating the San Jose Earthquakes 3-0 on Saturday, the Red Bulls head down I-95 to take on rivals DC United. DC had a brilliant season last year, finishing last in MLS, but they have rebuilt a bit and look considerably more dangerous this season, particularly with Charlie Davies leading the diving -- sorry, penalty-winning -- line up front. To get some swamp dweller perspective on the game, Black and Red United's Martin Shatzer and I traded some questions about each other's teams. You can find my answers to his questions here.
Once A Metro: DC look vastly improved compared to last year. What do you think have been the team's most significant improvements and have United fixed enough to be a threat in the playoffs?
Martin Shatzer: D.C. United has gone from being one of the oldest teams in the league to the youngest in a matter of months. That 2010 roster had no apparent vision or direction. All filler, no killer. Now United is built around a possession-oriented style, with speed on the wings and on top to finish off their chances. [This sounds a lot like the Red Bulls. Except we don't do so well with the "finishing off chances" part.] The new additions are great and all, but this system is also allowing guys like Chris Pontius and Fred da Silva to shine. The team chemistry isn't quite there yet for this young squad, but I absolutely expect United to be playoff contenders in October.
OAM: Ben Olsen is in his first full season as United's head coach, and he's been part of a front office team that conducted a pretty significant squad overhaul through the winter. How much credit do you give him for DC's solid start, and which of the new signings is most likely to surprise us with his impact this season?
MS: I give Olsen a significant amount of credit for assembling this roster. He's built it in his image. It's his Army. The vision in United's rebuilding process was to acquire intelligent, hard-working, aggressive players - all traits that Olsen embodied himself as a player. And so I don't think many are surprised by the impacts that Josh Wolff and Dax McCarty have had. The surprises have come on the back-line, where two rookies out of Akron in Perry Kitchen and Chris Korb have been vast improvements on the more experienced defenders that United used last season. Hey, now that I think about it, the second round pick that United used to draft Korb was acquired from the Red Bulls in a trade for Carey Talley, who played all of 45 minutes in a New York uniform last season. So thanks for that. [Dumbest move in the history of MLS? Possibly. Carey Talley sucked.]
OAM: In the wake of Charlie Davies' performance against LA, what are the the chances of him getting a call-up from the US National Diving team for the Pan-American Games this fall?
MS: If Charlie Davies wants to be on the U.S. National Diving team, Charlie Davies will be on the U.S. National Diving team. Dude is un-freakin-stoppable. And yeah, he went down pretty easily after Omar Gonzalez pushed him with out-stretched arms, but we just count the point that United earned from the Los Angeles Galaxy match as karma to make up for all the horrible calls that went against us in our road loss to the New England Revolution that could have easily been a tie given a competent official. [Competent officials are not allowed in MLS, you should know that.]
Martin also did a bit of pot-stirring with this post. Apparently Juan Agudelo, Tim Howard, Jozy Altidore and Sacir Hot do not exist. And I guess we haven't actually needed a midfield playmaker for the last four seasons, or any help in central defense. Please set him straight. Thank you.