I caught up with Ryan Keefer from SB Nation’s Black and Red United to get his thoughts on Saturday’s matchup.
Once a Metro: DC beat NYCFC last week, but do they have an identity crisis like the Red Bulls? What is contributing to their slow start?
Black and Red United: If there was an identity, it may be that Ben Olsen is trying to work on the lineup that will start at DC's new home in 2018, while forgetting about the need for results in 2017. That said, it's been a confluence of bad circumstances, starting from the back; Olsen wanted to pair Sean Franklin (a right back most of his time in MLS) with Steve Birnbaum to get quicker in back and have more of the ball, but Franklin hasn't been great AND Birnbaum's backline skills regressed as a result, so Bobby Boswell is back in. Marcelo Sarvas has looked every bit his 35 years of age (though has slightly improved) as a CDM, and the scoring talent started off slow among Lloyd Sam, Luciano Acosta and Patrick Nyarko. The expectation is that they make at least one move in the summer, but they have to hold out until then.
OaM: Do you expect Olsen to make any changes to formation or tactics since the start of the season?
B&RU: He's played a 4-1-4-1 since the beginning of the year and I doubt things are going to change in that structure, but it's the center of midfield that's been a problem. The CDM behind the 2 central mids has seen 4 different combinations in 5 games already. Acosta's spot is safe, and serving as the box to box mid is rookie/homegrown Ian Harkes, learning his craft on the job, and D-mid has seen Sarvas and Jared Jeffrey share the starting minutes. I'd expect Sarvas returns from suspension into the 6 car Saturday behind Harkes and Acosta.
OaM: Which off-season acquisitions are already paying dividends this season?
B&RU: On the field, Nick DeLeon has served as the Black-and-Red Odysseus through the years; he's played as a left mid, a left back in spot work, a right mid, a box to box mid and now, is the starting right back. And for the most part he's doing pretty well; nobody else is a more accurate passer (and has played as much) on the team as Nick, and his work rate has him usually marking a team's speedster, and he did well against Ronald Matarrita last week. It's a work in progress but a pleasant surprise so far.
Off the field? Have you heard about our soon to be stadium?
Injuries/Omissions: Patrick Mullins (hamstring)
Starting XI: (4-1-4-1) Bill Hamid; Nick Deleon-Steve Birnbaum-Bobby Boswell-Taylor Kemp; Marcelo Sarvas; Lloyd Sam-Ian Harkes-Luciano Acosta-Patrick Nyarko; Jose Guillermo Ortiz
Score: Metros 2-1