First, I would like to thank the crew of Black and Red United for a fun takeover day. We had a blast. My name is Murph and I am the Managing Editor of the Brotherly Game. We like to get opposing teams sites to give us a breakdown of their own team in a segment we call the Opposite View and Adam was kind enough to offer us Union fans his perspective on the upcoming match and we returned the favor. So listen up United fans, I am going to tell you guys exactly how to beat the Union.
The first thing that came to mind when I thought about this match was that it's the final match in the I-95 Corridor rivalry. The Union have to beat United by 3 goals to win their first (imaginary) cup. If they fail to do that, the nonexistent honors will be bestowed upon the New York Red Bulls and NO ONE wants that. So now that we have established that D.C. United is honor bound to lose by at least three goals, let's take a look at how that may happen.
The consensus around the Brotherly Game water cooler is that Hackworth will bring a 4-5-1 formation, with Conor Casey up top. The Union will kick off slightly handicapped because Shaenon Williams and Fabinhio are both suspended for this match. New boy Fabinho has done a decent job when deployed at a left back but John Hackworth has moved Fabinho up to left midfield in the last few matches, looking to benefit from earlier left footed crosses. Honestly he's looked a bit lost and his likely replacement in left midfield, Sebastien LeToux will be an upgrade on the combative but diminutive Brazilian.
The remaining line up will largely depend on which fullback the Hackworth decided to replace and with whom. The names Kassel and Albright have been thrown around this week's presser. Of course the possibilities are endless with the depth that the Union is famous for (sic), but Hackworth is a creature of habit and he generally sticks with the same players. We would expect to see Williams replaced by Michael Lahoud if he is fit and Chris Albright if he is not. We will likely see DC United legend Brian Carroll and Keon Daniel as double holding midfielders. With Sebastien LeToux, Michael Farfan and former United player Danny Cruz sitting above the defensive shield. No matter how many players Hackworth leaves behind, the absence of Williams on the right will leave a huge hole that the likes of DeLeon is well equipped make very good use of.
Danny Cruz has not picked up his defensive game one bit since leaving United, so I could easily see this being DeLeon instead of Pearce:
The defensive strability that has been the one consistent thing about this Union team is based mainly on the positioning of Parke and Okugo and the speed of Williams. Remove the speed and throw an unfamiliar player into the system that Okugo and Parke have to compensate for and the possibility for disaster is very high. This is a match and a lineup that a Carlos Ruiz could function well against. Some defensive question marks, coupled with Zac Mac Math's trouble with both positioning and long distance shots. Ruiz could fire them from 40 yards out all day and likely slide one through.
The Union, despite their playoff push do not have a lot of good news going into this match. The encounters with United have been getting chippier and Danny Cruz, Brian Carroll and notorious hothead Michael Farfan go into the match needing only one yellow before they sit a match out. So I fully expect two if not all three to obligingly pick up unnecessary cards.
That brings us to the subject of Kleberson. Kleberson will likely be the first substitute off the bench considering his versatility in midfield. Hackworth's disdain for the former Manchester United and World Cup winning Brazilian national teamer would usually preclude his involvement in a fracas such as this, but one gets a feeling that a suspension for the final three matches would suit Hack just fine.
If there are no ejections, expect the obligatory Antoinne Hoppenot substitution for Danny Cruz somewhere between the 62nd and 70th minute. Klebersonwill likely be replacing any midfielder besides Cruz. Wheeler will also replace Casey at exactly the moment the game should not be stopped for a substitution.
That being said you United folk are riding high off the US Open Cup victory and as much as the world says you are relishing the spoiler role, the reality is that United is phoning it in already and the Union have something to play for. There are no gimmie games and the Union made Toronto FC look like Barcelona last week, but there is still enough about the Union to win, just probably not by 3....sorry.
Here's a little pick me up for you DC fans: