D.C. United has finally officially left 2017 behind them, and the first (preseason) game of 2018 is upon us. They will take on their old foe, Malmo FF of the Swedish Allsvensken, this afternoon at 2:30pm. It will give fans their first look into the thought process of Ben Olsen going into the 2018 season, who his starters might be, and which trialists have the edge in making the team.
My thought, before having seen any of Ben Olsen’s decisions so far this preseason, is that they will start with a formation that looks like a 4-3-3 in the attack and will shift back into a 4-5-1 when they are playing defense. Also, given that they are likely to want to press hard and high and hit on the counter (especially when Yamil Asad is made official), I think that gives the edge to Darren Mattocks starting at central striker. When you pair him with Paul Arriola (and eventually the aforementioned Asad), that will give them team the fastest front three they’ve had in a decade, if not ever.
Zoltan Stieber will take up his spot as the left winger, though I am sure we’ll see him centrally during this game as well. The central midfield triangle has Luciano Acosta at the tip and Russell Canouse and Junior Moreno playing underneath him. I think the two defensive midfielders will take turns going forward while the other stays back, and hopefully they will begin to develop a partnership that locks down the center of the park.
The back line is fairly obvious, with Nick DeLeon starting on the right, Frederic Brillant and Steve Birnbaum starting in the middle, and Taylor Kemp returning to start on the left. If Kemp doesn’t yet quite have the fitness to start, given his offseason hip surgery, then new signing Oniel Fisher would battle trialist John Requejo Jr. to get the nod.
This lineup is a strong upgrade from the beginning of last season, and it will only get stronger through this preseason. The bench will officially consist of the entire roster, and we will likely see a mostly different group of players to start the second half.
Soccer is back!