Lewis Neal starting on Saturday won't just be for his goal, it follows Olsen's pattern since DeRo's injury.
While D.C. United's playoff spot is firmly in hand, there is still more for which to play in this Saturday's game against the Chicago Fire. Martin has gone over all the possible permutations, including the ways in which United could get to the CONCACAF Champions League next year. A win also gives United, regardless of Sporting Kansas City's result tonight, home field advantage over all but two team in the league and makes sure that United will be in the semi-final round. A tie against the Fire would still give United second place in the East, but would make it much less likely that RFK would host MLS Cup, should United get that far.
In the wake of Dwayne De Rosario's injury, Ben Olsen has settled down and decided on a starting X; it has been that 11th player that has switched around from week to week. Whenever United has played at home, that player has Maicon Santos. Whenever the team has gone on the road, that player has been Lewis Neal. So, staying true to form, I predict that Lewis Neal will get the start, with Hamdi Salihi, Branko Boskovic, and Maicon Santos staying on the bench for a second half punch that few other teams in the league can match. As I mentioned on the latest episode of Filibuster, regardless of whether or not you think they should be starting, having players of the skill of these three able to come in and change the game in the second half is an advantage that Olsen will not give up easily. The rest of the bench should include players such as Joe Willis, Emiliano Dudar, Ethan White, and Robbie Russell.
In the wake of his performance against the Columbus Crew, I have seen a few people suggest that Perry Kitchen should start alone in central defensive midfield against the Fire. While that seems appealing on the surface, you and I both know that it will not happen this season. In fact, after showing it at the end of last season with Kitchen and Clyde Simms, I am a little surprised it took Olsen this long to get back to the double pivot. But for as much as we slag him, Marcelo Saragosa allows Kitchen to spray those pinpoint passes out to the wings and to break up play, knowing the Saragosa is there as additional cover.
All of this leads me to a discussion question to through out to you, our readership: is D.C. United's classic formation, the diamond 4-4-2, workable in the current state of MLS, especially with the lack of success the team has had against 4-3-3s?