The New York Red Bulls haven't lost since July 3rd (in all competitions), but still have an abysmal road record (1-7-5). They are flying high, but D.C. United is equally confident. They are unbeaten in their last three games. Is this the week that RBNY break through and double their road wins for the season? We caught up with Ryan Keefer from Black & Red United to get his take on Sunday's matchup.
Once a Metro: DC scored a big win against Portland last weekend. They are now sitting in the final playoff spot in the East. Have they turned a corner from their slow start in 2016? What's the fans' reaction to the victory leading into the match with RBNY?
Black & Red United: The fans sound upbeat at the moment. They're above the red line, broke a six-week winless run and, over the last three games where they saw Fanendo Adi, Didier Drogba/Ignacio Piatti and CJ Sapong/Chris Pontius, gave up a goal and allowed something like 12 shots among them all. The result was encouraging; there has been a gradual uptick in a 90-minute mentality lately.
That said, I don't think people should be putting too much stock in the win. The Timbers are the only team above the line who hasn't won a road game this season (D.C. and the Red Bulls at 1 each shouldn't be laughing too hard either), and they played Sunday without Diego Chara, and two members of their backline were coming back from injuries in Liam Ridgewell and Alvas Powell, and D.C. picked on Powell all night as a result.
If you're still here, the short version is, to paraphrase Winston Wolf, let's not congratulate each other just yet.
OaM: DC got the best of RBNY 2-0 back in May. This weekend's game is also at RFK, with another matchup at RBA in three weeks. Will DC have a similar approach to the first encounter, or will they change up their tactics?
B&RU: There's been some mild turnover both in tactics and personnel. D.C. went from a 4-4-2 to a 4-1-4-1 at the end of June, giving Luciano Acosta the keys to the creative car, and trading of Fabian Espindola to the Vancouver Whitecaps to give Acosta even more faith. Later, they acquired Patrick Mullins and some guy from New Jersey (Samuelson?) in separate deals. Mullins replaces Alvaro Saborio and potentially gives D.C. a forward who can shoot with both feet and involve his teammates with hold-up play, something D.C. hasn't in years. His increased chemistry with Acosta is encouraging, and the midfielders have gotten faster in running with the speedy "Lucho" or at the very least smarter.
OaM: It makes me sad to ask this question. How has Lloyd Sam settled in since transferring to DC in early July?
B&RU: Quietly, Sam's joining the roster has been another in a solid group of intraleague moves for the team. He's had 2 assists in four games (including over the weekend), and his combination work with Sean Franklin at times has been impressive. He fills the 'intelligent outside mid' void that D.C. had been missing since Chris Rolfe suffered a concussion in May and has not returned since (Patrick Nyarko fills the 'Chicago Fire castoff' void on the other side of the field).
Injuries: Chris Rolfe, Chris Korb
Predicted XI: Bill Hamid; Sean Franklin, Steve Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, Taylor Kemp; Marcelo Sarvas; Lloyd Sam, Luciano Acosta, Jared Jeffrey, Patrick Nyarko; Patrick Mullins
Predicted Scoreline: 2-1 DCU
You can catch Once a Metro's answers to Black & Red United here.