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Behind Enemy Lines With Waking The Red

Javier Martina has a weak-ass surname and a kick-ass haircut. But is he for real?
Javier Martina has a weak-ass surname and a kick-ass haircut. But is he for real?

We exchanged three questions with one of SB Nation's rookies - Waking The Red - in advance of this Saturday's clash between DC United and Toronto FC. Here are the results.

1. Is Javier Martina for real?

Yes and no, depending on the day. He's certainly got some crowd pleasing tricks, but I'm not convinced of a consistent end product yet. I think he's going to be a good MLS level winger, talented but inconsistent, having some great games like his two goal game against Portland, and some games like the first half of TFC's game against San Jose, where he's barely noticeable.

I've actually got higher hopes for our Left Winger, Alen Stevanovic. On loan from Torino, who have him on loan from Inter Milan, he prefers to cut inside from the wing and let the Left Back overlap on the outside, and was TFC's best player against San Jose. If we can get both of them firing at the same time, look out.

2. Tony Tchani seems to be fitting in well. So did Toronto FC "win" the Dwayne De Rosario trade?

I'd hesitate to say we "won" the trade, as De Rosario will probably fit well into New York's more talented lineup, and could well help them win some important games in the playoffs, he's certainly got history for that. TFC definitely got good value back for him though, so far Tchani looks great, a physical destructive midfield prescence, he should perfectly compliment Julian de Guzman's less noticeable, more cerebral style of defensive play. Throw in Danleigh Borman who's looked ok at Left Back, and a draft pick, and I think it was a very good trade for TFC, definitely a win for the future. For this year, losing De Rosario's goalscoring ability will hurt, and there'll be some games where we're crying out for someone like De Rosario to create something out of nothing, but not having him around to rely on will help the team grow. Also, there'll be a lot less drama now, which is a good thing.

3. There was plenty of discussion about Joao Plata prior to the MLS Draft, and many were surprised to see him drafted so late. How has he looked in his 45 minutes of action this season?

Almost exactly what you'd expect, skillful, but easily knocked off the ball. Towards the end of our game against San Jose, he tried to go round Ike Opara, Opara simply leaned in and very legally sent him flying into the advertising boards behind the goal line. So far, MLS is looking a bit too physical for him, defenders have been playing him tight and he hasn't been able to get away from them. The potential is definitely there, but I think he's going to have to learn to draw fouls more successfully in order to create that extra bit of space he needs.

Charlie Davies is obviously the biggest name DC brought in, but what other changes have been made to improve last year's squad?  How much are DC going to rely on homegrown players like Andy Najar?

United has made changes all over the field. We went into this offseason expecting a complete rebuilding and having to wait 1-2 years to make the playoffs, but then Davies came along and accelerated all that. The back-line is improved by the addition of No. 3 overall draft pick Perry Kitchen, who has drawn favorable comparisons to Tim Ream, and the midfield is much better in possession thanks to Dax McCarty. D.C. also jettisoned every single one of their forwards from last season, adding Josh Wolff among others in their place. United became the first team ever to start three homegrown players last week with Najar, Bill Hamid, and Ethan White in the lineup, and all three might start again Saturday night.

Ben Olsen.  He had a great record as a player for D.C., but is obviously inexperienced as a coach.  Do supporters have confidence he can lead the team back to competitiveness?

Absolutely. Competitive is one of Ben Olsen's middle names, along with Work Ethic, and Deity. Plenty of folks questioned whether he'd be a good hire when he took the job due to his inexperience, and obviously that's fair. But Olsen has rebuilt this team in his image (hard working, aggressive, energetic, intelligent). They're Olsen's Army through and through. They may not yet be championship contenders, but they'll be hard to beat every single week.

What sort of formation and tactics can TFC expect to see from DC on Saturday?  How does Olsen have them playing so far?

This might not make a whole lot of sense to Canadian fans, but Olsen's formation is very similar to what Bob Bradley's been using with the U.S. National Team the past few years. McCarty plays slightly ahead of a more true defensive midfielder in Clyde Simms, while the wingers (some combination of Najar, Chris Pontius, and Branko Boskovic) traditionally play fairly high up the field. D.C. will try to take advantage of the speed of guys like Davies, Najar, and Pontius to generate goals off counters, while also maintaining lots of possession through McCarty in the middle when appropriate.