New England Soccer Today

Scouting Report: D.C. United

D.C. United's Nick DeLeon battles Sporting K.C.'s Kei Kamara for position during the preseason. (Photo: Joshua Pearson)

(Editor’s note: Prior to each Revolution match, New England Soccer Today will invite a reporter who covers the Revolution’s upcoming opponent to provide greater insight on what to expect on gameday.

This week, Craig Stouffer from The Washington Examiner was kind enough to share his insight on D.C. United and what the Revolution can expect on Saturday.)

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New England Soccer Today: What is D.C.’s form through its first five games? How do you think last week’s 0-0 draw at home against Seattle affected them?

Craig: United has been down and up. After coming within a minute of a scoreless draw in their season opener, head coach Ben Olsen flipped his lineup dramatically in the second game of the year against Los Angeles, only to lose convincingly, 3-1. But D.C. has given up just one goal since – and it should’ve been called offside – going 1-0-2 over the past three matches. Last week’s scoreless draw at home with Seattle was a disappointment since it denied D.C. two victories in a row, a streak it hasn’t achieved since 2009. But the upshot is that Olsen has the most healthy and available bodies at his disposal since the opener to bring to New England.

What things has D.C. done particularly well so far this season?

D.C. is building from the back and has played solid team defense. Joe Willis has been superb in net with Bill Hamid on U.S. under-23 duty. Robbie Russell, brought in from Real Salt Lake, has been a solid veteran presence at right back, and Emiliano Dudar has emerged as everything United hoped he would be at center back. There’s also much more depth on the wings with Danny Cruz and Nick DeLeon.

Which areas still need improvement?

Despite four goals against FC Dallas, the attack hasn’t clicked on all cylinders yet. New designated player Hamdi Salihi hasn’t scored, and neither has reigning MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario. There’s some question about Olsen’s usage of Branko Boskovic, who is still just coming off the bench despite his designated player salary.

Former D.C. United midfielder Clyde Simms has proven to be a valuable addition to the Revolution thus far. From your perspective, what may have been the reason(s) why D.C. decided to cut ties with Simms during the offseason?

Salary and the emergence of Perry Kitchen. Simms has always been a very solid and dependable defensive midfielder, but he was never able to assert himself offensively with D.C. Kitchen showed late last season that he had the same defensive bite as Simms along with passing ability out of the back. At $180,000, Simms was expensive for a backup, but we’ll have to see what numbers are when 2012 salaries are revealed.

One player the Revs will have to pay attention is obviously Dwayne DeRosario, but which “unsung hero” could make an impact on Saturday?

Nick DeLeon has emerged as a legitimate candidate for MLS rookie of the year. He covers a lot of ground, is dangerous with his first touch and has natural instincts for going forward playing attacking soccer. He’s also got unmistakable hair. Also look for Salihi, who is increasing desperate for his first MLS goal.

What are some of things that D.C. will try to do on Saturday to stack the odds in their favor?

United’s best chance will come from being organized and hard to break down early. The more minutes that go by without allowing a Revolution goal, the more confident D.C. United will be. They’ve played some of their best soccer in the second half of the last three matches.

What is D.C.’s likely Starting XI for Saturday?

Bill Hamid
Robbie Russell, Emiliano Dudar, Dejan Jakovic, Daniel Woolard
Nick DeLeon, Perry Kitchen, Dwayne DeRosario, Danny Cruz
Maicon Santos, Hamdi Salihi

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Craig Stouffer covers D.C. United for The Washington Examiner. He is a member of The North American Soccer Reporters.

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