There's some good news for D.C. United heading into their game today against the New England Revolution. The Black-and-Red have gone 3W-1D-1L against the Revs over the past 2 seasons, including a playoff win last October. The games have all been close - United's 2-0 win in early 2014 was the only game that wasn't a one-goal win or a draw - but United seems to have a grasp on how to slow down the high-flying Revolution.
However, those games involved a completely different United midfield. This time, the Black-and-Red has two new faces in their central midfield and will almost certainly start a newcomer at right midfield as well. On top of that, the club is trying to change their playing style. New England, meanwhile, will be trying to incorporate no more than two offseason acquisitions into a side that plays the same way they have for quite some time now. If United can't keep up with New England's speed of play, they're going to have real problems getting their first victory of 2016.
Key player: Nick DeLeon
United appears to have moved, via a mix of faster players, an emphasis on earlier pressure, and a more skillful central midfield, towards a higher tempo. The Revs, meanwhile, have been playing at a high speed as compared to the rest of MLS since Jay Heaps took over as head coach. Both of these teams seem interested in moving quickly through the midfield before trying to establish possession inside the opposing attacking third.
That means central midfield is going to be very important. Both teams are going to transition into the attack quickly, which means that United is going to have to get into good defensive positions immediately after a turnover (while also doing their best to reduce those turnovers whenever possible). This is the next step for DeLeon, who is coming off of what was easily his best showing in central midfield since his offseason move to a new position. DeLeon wasn't tested as much in transition by the Galaxy because their style of play is a bit slower. The Revs, on the other hand, stomp the gas pedal and never let up.
If DeLeon can keep his passing accuracy above 85% while also helping to slow down New England's attacking transitions before they really get going, he will have played a very good game. However, if he's repeatedly behind the play and is having problems with turnovers, this might be a long afternoon for the Black-and-Red.
Location: Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, MA)
Kick-off time: 3:00pm Eastern
Available TV: NewsChannel 8 (English), WUTB channel 24.3 (English, over the air in Baltimore), WRLH channel 35.2 (English, over the air in Richmond), WTVZ-DT (English, over the air in Norfolk), WSET channel 13.2 (English, over the air in Roanoke)
Available streaming: MLS Live (English, blacked out in the DMV)
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
Our gamethread will be posted 1 hour before kickoff.