The odds are stacked against D.C. United for their first ever visit to JELD-WEN Field on Sunday. It’s a place where the Portland Timbers have collected full points in every MLS match. They’re 15 for 15. A loss for United would be expected. Some have already decided that its basically guaranteed . And that was even before Charlie Davies missed practice today and Josh Wolff seems likely to begin the match on the bench.
So with nothing to lose, why not try something different?
Some of us have been pondering for much of the season what an expanded midfield would look like for United. Heading into a match with our two top forwards on the shelf, now seems like a perfect time for D.C. to give it a whirl.
Utilizing a 4-5-1 formation in Portland might be beneficial for United. The Timbers’ two top midfielders – Jack Jewsbury and Kalif Alhassan – each boast an impressive five assists this season. Clogging the midfield to limit their ability to provide service to Kenny Cooper is vital.
My version of a 4-5-1 for United features our usual wingers – Andy Najar and Chris Pontius – being aggressively involved in the attack. With the increased freedom that this formation would allow, they certainly could cause problems for the familiar faces of Rodney Wallace and Mamadou "Futty" Danso on the other side of the field. The central midfield is almost certain to include Dax McCarty and Clyde Simms as standard, but the main difference is that I’d include Fred da Silva in the starting lineup as a central attacking midfielder in lieu of a second forward. With Simms behind him doing the dirty work and McCarty hanging back to gather and distribute, Fred would be getting the rare opportunity to play his best and most preferred position.
Is Joseph Ngwenya the forward that we’d most like to head up this new formation? No. But at least we know he’s good at dribbling away from the goal. This will result in even more midfield possession!
Keep in mind that this isn’t a huge change. We would have likely seen Santino Quaranta starting in a withdrawn forward role on Sunday if not for a collision he suffered in practice with Perry Kitchen (via Travis Clark), and Fred would only be playing slightly further back in my proposed lineup than Quaranta would be playing normally. But I think this slight shift would get Fred and McCarty each into positions that they’re the most comfortable in. Otherwise we may just be another notch on Portland’s belt.