D.C. United has won once in the past seven games, and five of those games have been losses. Out of the top 10 players in minutes played, only two have not been consistently starting during this streak: Davy Arnaud and Chris Korb, both out due to injury. And while Korb would be a welcome addition at this point, the key loss has been that of Arnaud, who has only started the San Jose Earthquakes game during this streak.
Davy Arnaud is a savvy MLS veteran who has played a number of different positions in this league. He started out as an attacking midfielder, making the move late in his career to a more defensive role. However, he suffered a concussion at an unspecified time during this stretch, and Arnaud has a previous long-term concussion battle. During 2013, he was out for almost 2 months while playing for the Montreal Impact.
His defensive statistics tell the story of a veteran player who just happens to always be in the right place at the right time: He is still the team leader in tackles per game (2.1), tied for the most interceptions per game by a midfielder with Perry Kitchen (1.7), has the most clearances per game of any midfielder (1.7), and the most blocks per game of any midfielder (.5). He is not just his stereotype of a gritty grinder; instead, he uses his intelligence all throughout the midfield and the defense to help shut down bad situations.
All of that defensive work comes with a price: He is far and away the most fouled player on the team, which would make sense for the most fouled player in MLS history. He suffers 2.1 fouls per game; only Chris Pontius and Alvaro Saborio are over 1 foul suffered per game. These fouls either help to break up opposing attacks or put United in a good position for a free kick to jumpstart the offense.
The replacement for Arnaud has been Finnish international Markus Halsti, who has partnered Perry Kitchen in four of the six games; against San Jose, Arnaud and Kitchen played together, and in the most recent game Nick DeLeon paired with Markus Halsti during the absence of both Arnaud and Kitchen. Halsti has not be able to provide the necessary balance to Kitchen, and it is telling that United's offense finally found the goal against NYCFC right after he was taken off. Kitchen, for his part, hasn't reached the completeness of his 2014 season, but at least his defensive prowess is back.
D.C. United was able to win without Fabian Espindola early in the season, without Luis Silva, without Steve Birnbaum, and without others too. The worst streak of the season came when the team was without Davy Arnaud. But until he is back full-time from his concussion, someone has to take his place. Who do you want to see next to Kitchen?