After a mostly secretive preseason, D.C. United will take the field for their first match of the 2020 season against Robin Fraser’s Colorado Rapids. We got a taste of what the team is looking to do in their final tuneup, a 3-1 win against the Philadelphia Union, and it features a number of players who are not in the positions that we might have thought they would occupy at the beginning of 2020. So who will Ben Olsen run out against the Rapids in the earliest regular season game in MLS history?
After years of playing a 4-2-3-1, it looks like (from our limited evidence) that Ben Olsen is favoring more of a 4-3-3 with this group of players. And while the difference between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3 can often be one of mindset or marching orders, it is primarily what we saw against the Philadelphia Union and what I think we will see against the Rapids. Ola Kamara will start in the middle on Saturday, but the rest of the attack is a little different than what we thought a months and a half ago.
Edison Flores will likely start on the right wing and Julian Gressel will play as the central attacking midfielder, which is the reverse of what we initially thought when these two players were signed. But watching Gressel pick out precise, long passes that led directly to goals makes me want to see more of that. If Flores can start getting on the end of those passes and scoring goals and assisting Kamara, that will be a fluid and deadly attack.
The only other main question for the lineup is on the left wing. Ulises Segura got the start there against the Union, and I think he keeps that spot against the Rapids. Yamil Asad had some good moves in his time on the field, but he only played for about 30 minutes this entire preseason. As March progresses, I expect him to get more and more time, but Segura has earned this opening day start with some impressive attacking play of his own.
The rest of the team flows as expected from there, with Felipe and Junior Moreno as the rest of the midfield; a back line of Russell Canouse, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, and Joseph Mora; and the steadfast Bill Hamid in goal. Due to the roster size, injuries, and the fact that Loudoun United is not yet in season, I expect we will see D.C. United’s homegrown players on the bench for the MLS club, and maybe even some minutes for Moses Nyeman, Kevin Paredes, and Griffin Yow.
What do you want to see Ben Olsen do on week one?