After a dismal night in the Big Apple, the Columbus Crew returns to action Wednesday against longtime Eastern Conference foe D.C. United at Lower.com Field. The Crew will look to bounce back after the team’s worst performance thus far in their 2021 campaign.
D.C. is unbeaten in the team’s last three games coming off a draw at FC Cincinnati in the last match, which saw United play most of the game with 10 men and then very end down to nine.
Here’s what to expect from D.C. and how the Black & Gold can get back to winning ways on Wednesday.
DC United at a Glance:
Record: 6-3-7, 21 points
League Form: D-W-D-L-W
Leading Scorer: Ola Kamara (7)
Assist Leader: Adrian Perez, Julian Gressel, Andy Najar, Junior Moreno (2)
Player to Watch: Ola Kamara
Crew fans are well aware of the goal scoring capabilities Kamara possesses after his run with the Crew that saw him bag 35 goals in 65 games in Columbus. Now with United, Kamara has scored 14 goals in just 38 since joining the tea, in August of 2019. But Kamara has scored in each of his last three appearances for D.C. and has seven goals on the year, including a goal in the last matchups between these two sides.
Known for his ability to consistently finish half chances in the penalty box, Kamara excels on crosses and broken plays near the goal. His size and speed make him a real threat to any backline and Columbus’ is no exception. If the Black & Gold are to take three points from this matchup, containing Kamara is an important piece of the puzzle.
How DC United play:
Young head coach Argentine Hernan Losada has settled in well in the nation’s capital in his first year at the helm of United. Despite a rocky start that saw D.C. lose five of the team’s first seven matches, Losada has rebounded and only lost two matches since that point. United is no squarely in playoff contention and only three points behind the Black & Gold in the East.
Despite his harsh introduction to the MLS, Losada had learned quickly and set his team up well for success with a high energy, entertaining brand of soccer. Defensively, D.C. looks to press the opposition high up the field in an effort to cause discomfort for the opponent in possession and potentially create turnovers that lead to dangerous opportunities.
When United has the ball, D.C. is one of the more direct attacking sides in the league. United is usually looking to get in behind the opponent’s backline as quickly as possible in an effort to create goal scoring opportunities. In fact, counter attacking has been D.C.’s main form of attack so far in 2021. This direct and energetic style of play usually leads to a wide-open, back-and-forth type of game, which perfectly suits the athleticism and pace in United’s ranks.
How the Crew can win:
This is a tricky game for Columbus. Aside from the regular challenges that come with a mid-week match in MLS, D.C. presents a unique challenge to the Black & Gold and will be much tougher to beat than in the previous meeting. Let’s look at what the Crew can do to make sure the team takes all three points from this match.
First and foremost, Columbus needs to be prepared to handle the pressure that United applies high up the pitch. As mentioned, D.C. looks to pressure as much as possible to create turnovers and keep the opponent from building a rhythm in possession. A huge part of the Crew’s game plan is based on building possession out of the own defensive third. Thus, if they Black & Gold are to be successful in this matchm they need to handle the United pressure and avoid sloppy turnovers that could lead to D.C. opportunities on goal.
Handling this pressure well could also lead to plenty of space for Columbus to attack after beating a large portion of United defenders. Keep an eye on this point, especially early in the game, as being successful in this area could be the most important thing the Crew does in this match.
United thrives off of making games as high energy, chaotic and as back and forth as possible. This is almost the exact opposite of how Caleb Porter would like games to be played. Therefore, whichever team controls the flow of this game will put itself in a great position to win.
The easiest way for Columbus to control the game is through dominating possession. However, this could play into D.C.’s hands as the Crew being in possession for long stretches would allow United to apply pressure and create turnovers, as well as open up space behind the backline as the ball advances up the field.
To counteract this, as well as make sure the tempo of the game is under control, the Black & Gold may allow United to have the majority of possession in this game. D.C. often seems uncomfortable and lacking in attacking ideas when in possession. In addition to the lack of threat going forward when in possession, this also opens up space behind the team’s defense to be exploited after winning the ball back. In fact, all but one of United’s losses so far in 2021 has come in a game where D.C. had the majority of possession.
Lastly, the Crew needs to do a good job winning first and second balls in this game. Since United plays so many long and direct balls, there will be plenty of aerial duels and second balls to be won on Wednesday night. If the Black & Gold can do a good job of dominating these duels and challenges, they will avoid D.C. being able to secure possession. Doing this would decrease the threat United could pose on the Crew goal in this match, which of course is a good thing.