Past the halfway point of the MLS season, DC United remains securely at the top of the Eastern Conference table. United is secure in its position, but with full knowledge there are quality challengers including Saturday’s opponent on the road Toronto FC (5 p.m. on CSN).
The team sheets continue to change for DC United, but the approach remains the same. Despite fielding 18 different starting lineups in 19 matches United is the first team in MLS to win ten games. On Wednesday, United with Conor Doyle providing a spectacular goal won its second game in four days with a 1-0 win in Chicago.
For United Saturday’s game in Toronto will be the second of four road games, including one U.S. Open Cup match, in ten days. Toronto FC is also dealing with an equally busy schedule and will play its third game in seven days after an impressive 3-1 win over Montreal on Wednesday.
- Changing elevens. DC United head coach Ben Olsen will likely use a 19th different starting eleven on Saturday. On Wednesday DC United’s lineup included seven players who have started less than half of the team’s regular season games in 2015: Conor Doyle (seven starts), Fabián Espíndola (6), Markus Halsti (4), Miguel Aguilar (4), Luis Silva (2), Luke Mishu (2), and Facundo Coria (1). The players in the game Wednesday might have been limited on playing time and playing together, but they were organized. For the first time this season United used a diamond in the midfield with Luis Silva and Facundo Coria in front of Markus Halsti and were creative while frustrating the Fire. Silva, Coria, and Halsti make up a trio that could be a starting midfield in MLS. Against Toronto expect Davy Arnaud, back from yellow card suspension, to be back in the center of the midfield along with Perry Kitchen who only played 11 minutes against the Fire. Fabian Espindola was used as a second half substitute Wednesday and he likely will return to the first eleven along with Chris Rolfe, who received the night off.
- Intriguing matchups. The defensive organization that helped United snare three points on Wednesday will have to be a hallmark of United’s approach against Toronto. United’s central defenders will have to keep Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore in front of them. In the last meeting between the teams at RFK, Giovinco was able to slip into dangerous positions and provided both goals in a 2-1 win. Kitchen and Arnaud will have to work to limit Michael Bradley. United’s right back, Steve Birnbaum played there against the Fire and Chris Korb is also an option, will have to deal with the surging runs of Toronto left back Ashtone Morgan.