DC United started as one of the worst squads in MLS, with only two wins in eight matches. But they have two in their last three, including their recent win at Kansas City. The club is without two of their best starters with Alvaro Saborío and Steve Birnbaum away with their respective national teams.
At 14 goals scored, only Chicago Fire and Seattle Sounders have fewer goals than DC. Four goals and two assists are from Saborío. His absence leaves DC much weaker on offense and hopefully gives Seattle a great chance. Against Sporting KC they took only six shots, had about 40 percent of possession and completed zero of seven crosses. The only tally came from a cross Taylor Kemp sent in that Tim Melia was unable to catch and fell right in front of Alhaji Kamara for an easy goal. I would expect after his goal and without Saborío, Kamara will start with Fabián Espíndola and Luciano Acosta will take the bench.
Kamara, like Acosta, has a bit of speed. It's not top level speed, but enough to cause difficulty for most defenses. He isn't the most technically sound or great with the ball at his feet, but will create space for others like Espíndola to make something happen. DC plays a fairly traditional bucket 4-4-2 with one speedy forward and one CF. The wingers bomb forward (usually Lamar Neagle and Nick DeLeon), and the two central midfielders play defensively but can also play balls forward. It looks like a lot Seattle during the Jaqua/Montero years. Offensively they do not have much outside of Taylor Kemp's crossing and Fabian Espíndola's nose for goal. Lamar Neagle and Taylor Kemp will take the free kicks, and when Neagle is taking corners you know you are short on talent.
Defensively DC rolls out Marcelo Sarvas in the midfield. If Sarvas can't go on what will be five days between matches, it'll be Miguel Aguilar or Julian Buescher (the latter is more threatening offensively). With that much rest and an upcoming break, expect Sarvas to play and do what he did at LA: Create fouls and gum up the middle of the park. With a team as narrow as the Sounders, this has the ability to create havoc. Next to Sarvas will likely be Jared Jeffrey, a player very similar to Sarvas who doesn't add much overall.
Without Steve Birnbaum, Kofi Opare will start next to Bobby Boswell to form a very 2001 MLS backline. They are big, strong and slow. Jordan Morris and Darwin Jones (should he play) will have a field day with them if they can get balls played over the top. While playing direct isn't the greatest against big CBs, DC only won about 33 percent of their aerial duels against KC last time out. Seattle hasn't been great at crossing, and playing through the middle will likely lead to a messy match of turnovers. But going direct to a group of speedy forwards (Jones, Morris, and Kovar) will improve their chances to get on goal. Taylor Kemp and Sean Franklin will attack as fullbacks, but for the most part are more conservative than we saw from New England's outside defenders. Outside of that, third-choice goalkeeper Travis Worra will start his 12th match (giving up 10 goals in 11). As a keeper he likes to punch and is poor at distributing, both benefits for Seattle should they go with the long ball.
Seattle shouldn't have a problem on offense if they play the long ball against this defense, but playing through the middle is unlikely to yield prosperous results. On defense, the Sounders shouldn't have issue with a DC offense lacking a creator, their best goal scorer, and an ability to complete passes and crosses in the attacking third.
DC United: Worra, Franklin, Boswell, Opare, Kemp, Nyarko, Sarvas, Jeffery, Neagle, Kamara, Espindola
Sounders: Frei, Mears, Alfaro, Marshall, Remick, Alonso, Friberg, Roldan, Jones, Morris, Kovar