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Scouting Report: breaking the DC United filibuster

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They haven’t realized that proximity to power has deluded them into believing they wield it

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at D.C. United Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Who You’ll Watch

After a much needed two week break, the Sounders will welcome D.C. United to Seattle. This will be the lone meeting of the regular season between the two clubs.

Last season, Seattle went to the nation’s capital and defeated United behind goals from Jordan Morris and Joevin Jones.

United currently sits in last place of the Eastern Conference (18 points in 19 games played; 0.95 ppg) while the Sounders sit in seventh place of the Western Conference (24 points in 19 games played; 1.26 ppg). Both teams last played on July 4 and United is coming off a 4-2 defeat at the hands of FC Dallas, while the Sounders won 3-1 against Colorado on the road.

United Notable Roster Changes

Out: Kennedy Igboananike, Alvaro Saborio

In: Sebastien Le Toux, Deshorn Brown

Current Form

D.C. United

Form: L-W-L-L-L; four goals scored with ten conceded

Top Scorer: Luciano Acosta, four goals

Top Assist Leader: Lloyd Sam and Acosta, two assists

Sounders

Form: W-L-D-D-W; eight goals scored with six conceded

Top Scorer: Clint Dempsey, seven goals

Top Assist Leader: Nicolas Loderio and Jones, six assists

Absences: Injury, international duty, suspension

D.C. United

Patrick Mullins (knee surgery), Bobby Boswell (groin injury), and Bill Hamid (USMNT duty) are fully out. Rob Vincent (left knee meniscus) and Nick DeLeon (lower abdominal strain) are listed as questionable. Though it won’t benefit Seattle, Marcelo Sarvas is one yellow card away from yellow card accumulation.

Seattle

Chad Marshall (foot), Osvaldo Alonso (left MCL sprain) and Henry Wingo (right ankle sprain). Seyi Adekoya (left ankle sprain) is listed as out but played for S2 this weekend. Harry Shipp (right hand fracture) is listed as questionable. Jordan Morris and Dempsey are away with the US National Team for the Gold Cup, and Oniel Fisher (Jamaica) is also away for Gold Cup duty.

What to Watch

D.C. United has very much earned their spot at the bottom of the table, tied for worst in the league with Minnesota United. Here’s a sampling of their ranking in various categories: last in shots conceded per game (15.8), second from last in tackles per game (16.1, despite being middle of the pack in tackles attempted per game), second from last on getting beat via dribble (8.9), second from last in possession percentage (46%), and second from last in passing percentage (73.5). Despite being heavily dependent on the long ball (6th in attempted per game), they’re one of the least accurate in the league at doing so (21st in completed per game). In their penultimate stroke, they’re dead last in goals scored, and in a three-way tie for worst goal differential in the league at -17 (!). Lest you think they, have some sort of Jekyll-and-Hyde home and road splits, they’re conceding just one shot less per match at home.

There’s very little positive to say about what Ben Olsen has been able to get out of the team this year, and it’s hard to believe his seat isn’t a little bit warm at this point. He’s tried a wide variety of formations this year, but none of them have solved the problem that nobody seems to know how to — or want to — play defense. The amount of time opponents are given on the ball is astounding, and as a result opponents are getting good to great looks out of a significant number of possessions per match.

Attack the wings - the return to MLS of Brown has shifted DC towards a 4-2-3-1/4-1-4-1, with Lloyd Sam and Patrick Nyarko running wide channels. Their finishing is as good as you’d expect based on history, (that is, terrible,) and their defense is about the same. This leaves the pressure on Ian Harkes, who isn’t a natural defensive mid, and whoever his partner ends up being (likely the dried out husk of Sarvas) to provide the outside defensive support, and that just doesn’t really happen to the extent that’s required.

Seattle doesn’t have the team speed to truly take advantage of this, but they are great at pumping crosses in. With DeLeon likely out, there’s a lot of pressure on Chris Odoi-Atsem or Sean Franklin (the latter the more likely starter) to contain Nouhou and Joevin Jones. Their counterpart on the other side, Taylor Kemp, is a decent attacker but a weak defender, and the mix of Brad Evans/Kelvin Leerdam and Aaron Kovar should have a fun time taking advantage of him as well.

Take the shot - Hamid is remaining with the the USMNT, and Travis Worra does a poor impression of him. His organization skills are significantly below, and he’s nowhere near the shot stopper Hamid is. FC Dallas hit him early, often, and from a myriad of angles, and he never looked confident. In particular, he struggled with crosses, which isn’t a great match for what was discussed previously.

The Sounders are a very different team with Dempsey and Morris both gone, but a capable one. Will Bruin enjoys using his head, as does late box-crasher Cristian Roldan. At least one of the two trees will be out, but Roman Torres does a pretty good job getting his head on set pieces. Nicolas Lodeiro and Kovar can send in a pretty good ball, and line up distance shots as well. This may not be the Dallas side the DC boys faced last week, but it certainly has some solid threats.

How will the Seattle defense hold up? - A quick hitter, but a key one. It’s vital that the team find cohesion quickly; with Marshall and Alonso out the glue may be slow to dry. DC may be hilariously inept at scoring, but they do try, and both Brown and Harkes are capable of creating a goal on their own from a breakdown.

Expected Lineups

Seattle: Stefan Frei; Nouhou, Alfaro, Torres, Evans; Svensson, Roldan; Jones, Lodeiro, Kovar; Bruin

D.C. United: Worra; Kemp, Kofi Opare, Steve Birnbaum, Franklin; Harkes, Sarvas; Nyarko, Luciano Acosta, Lloyd Sam; Deshorn Brown

How to Watch

Date/Time: Wednesday, July 19 7:30 PM

Venue: CenturyLink Field

Television: Q13 FOX

Radio: KIRO 97.3 FM (English), El Rey 1360 AM (Spanish)