Black and Red United: What formations and tactics should D.C. United fans watch for?
Bridget McDowell, E Pluribus Loonum: Adrian Heath’s 4-2-3-1 has seen some changes in terms of personnel but continues to rely on counter attacks down the wing and balls served in from long range. Yellow card accumulation has been an issue for the Loons’ midfield this season which may have led, in part, to a new focus on short, one-time passes — a tactic severely lacking in Heath’s system in recent years. Most defenses focus on Emanuel Reynoso as he is the main threat from Minnesota’s approach to the final third. With other attacking players coming into form though, shutting down Reynoso no longer shuts down the attack. Watch the wings (Lawrence and Fragapane, Taylor and Hlongwane) to see how that develops through the match.
B&RU: What are some recent shakeups we should know about?
BM, EPL: With Kervin Arriaga unavailable due to an ankle injury (suffered in the opening minutes of the Loons’ 3-2 win at LA Galaxy on June 29), winger/forward Robin Lod has slotted in at the number 6 spot alongside Wil Trapp. Going from winger to striker to defensive mid seems an odd transition, but Lod often plays the 6 for Finland’s national team and has done well in the role for Minnesota’s last three matches. He’s not a like-for-like sub for Arriaga so it changes the flow of Heath’s typical 4-2-3-1, a dynamic to watch on counterattacks.
The rightback spot has also seen some changes with Romain Metanire’s injury troubles and Heath even tested out a 3-4-3 a few times in May to focus on offensive resources. However, DJ Taylor has come to own the rightback role and now faces competition with the acquisition of Alan Benitez.
B&RU: Who do you see as the Loons’ most dangerous players?
BM, EPL: Taylor and Kemar Lawrence have brought new offensive opportunities since joining the backline. The fullbacks combined for a goal and assist in the 3-1 win at Vancouver last week, with Lawrence finishing a beautiful cross in from Taylor.
Luis Amarilla and Franco Fragapane are both regaining their footing in the attack (they accounted for the other two goals in Vancouver), as is Emanuel Reynoso. He and Bongokuhle “Bongi” Hlongwane have struggled to finish opportunities in front of goal, yet Reynoso has tallied five goals in the five games since the international break and Bongi’s ball work inside the 18 allows Reynoso more freedom to find space to shoot.