D.C. United fans received some bad news last night, with Steve Goff reporting that Joseph Mora would not be returning to the team in early May as originally was thought; instead, he will miss “much more time.” Mora’s speed and defensive ability was one of key components that allowed the 4-2-3-1 in which the team started the year to work: the team and players trusted him to perform well and recover quickly, which allowed the central midfielders to clog the middle.
In the game again Los Angeles FC, for example, the two central midfielders were constantly being pulled all over the field, as opposed to their usual tight band of positioning, and in the games against Montreal Impact and Orlando City the defense felt a little more fragile than previously. With Alexandru Mitrita coming down the right wing at United’s left fullback, I think that a return to the 3-6-1/5-4-1 is the best option to given the players available right now for United.
The center back trio of Steven Birnbaum, Donovan Pines, and Jalen Robinson are all athletic and good in the air. If Leonardo Jara is available he could slot in at right wingback, but playing a more defensive role, and Paul Arriola could play as the left wingback in a more offensive role. I have no idea what Ben Olsen is going to do in central midfield, other than start Junior Moreno. Chris Durkin earned more playing time with his performance, but Russell Canouse has been on the fringe of the national team with his play this year and last. I’ll give it to Durkin by a hair.
The attack is pretty easy to determine, with Luciano Acosta and Lucas Rodriguez both playing underneath Wayne Rooney. Now, it is obviously possible (perhaps likely?) that Ben Olsen goes with the 4-2-3-1 with Akeem Ward (who I want to see debut!) and Leonardo Jara as the fullbacks and we roll from there. But given the absence of Mora and the fact that the most dangerous player on NYCFC will be aimed at his replacement, Olsen may want to replicate what he did last week and force them to just knock in crosses at three center backs.
What do you want to see Ben Olsen and D.C. United do this weekend?