D.C. United takes on the Philadelphia Union this Saturday in their second preseason game, the first with the addition of attacker Yamil Asad. It will also give us the first insight into Ben Olsen’s plans on how to fit Asad, Zoltan Stieber, Paul Arriola, and Luciano Acosta into an attacking trio, and that is before he decides how to structure his defensive midfield with Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, Ulises Segura, Ian Harkes, and Chris Durkin.
Russell Canouse and Luciano Acosta were battling knocks last time around, and so if they are fit they will slip right into the starting lineup. The first choice that Olsen will have to make is whether he wants Canouse alone in central midfield or if he wants Junior Moreno alongside him. I think early in the season, Olsen is going to want to play compact and conservative, and that means pairing Canouse and Moreno, and leaving a lone defensive midfielder as an option for later in games.
That means that the attacking midfield will be AAA-rated: Yamil Asad, Luciano Acosta, and Paul Arriola, with Zoltan Stieber and Ulises Segura as options for later in the game. I think Darren Mattocks gets the nod again to lead the line, as he showed well enough in the first game; Patrick Mullins will be nipping at his heels to show that he deserves that spot instead.
There have been plenty of alternative batted around to try and get all four attacking midfielders onto the field at the same time, including people suggesting moving either Asad or Arriola to fullback or trying out Asad or Stieber as a lone striker (a theory which I would like to see). However, until we see them in a preseason game, I find them very unlikely. The team is going to need depth this season more than ever, due to the travel of the first half of the season and the congestion of the second half. Plus, as we have noted over the years, Ben Olsen teams play best when there is competition; he has upped the amount of that this year.
With John Requejo Jr. no longer with the team, it seems likely that the newly acquired Oniel Fisher will get the start at left back, unless Taylor Kemp is healthy enough to go. Nick DeLeon will be on the right side of defense, and Frederic Brillant will be in the middle. His partner will be Steve Birnbaum if he is fully healthy, because Olsen needs to see them together to evaluate their partnership. If he is not, then it will go back to Brillant and Opare.
In the second half, there will be another almost-full lineup change, probably around the 60th minute or so. We are slowly getting more and more datapoints on what Ben Olsen wants to do this season, and this will be some more information to digest.