Tampa Bay Sports Day

New style brings DC United a 3-1 win

Ben Olsen unveiled the new DC United on Saturday and it wasn’t your father’s United. While this year’s version is a logical extension of the team’s progression last year, it has one key element that deviates from past practice. At least for now, there is no creative midfielder.

With the acquisition of Dax McCarty and his ascendancy to the captaincy, DC United’s central midfield became a box to box proposition. In place of the more defined roles of a creator backed by a holder/defender, we saw a pair of two way players in McCarty and Clyde Simms.

It was immediately clear that Simms, who had to focus constantly last year on supporting a weak defense, would slide forward and push into attack far more often. He explained it, “I can see where Dax has made a couple of runs and maybe the play starts and he’s behind me so I’ll go ahead and get forward.”

The change is not so much that roles are occasionally switched, but that it has now become more balanced. Olsen has adjusted to a reality for a budget team in a league that now allows only a few richer clubs to afford to bring in a true creative midfielder.

After the departure of Marco Etcheverry, United had some success with Christian Gomez, then less with Marcelo Gallardo, and came to the realization that players of that talent were rarely available on the relative cheap anymore.

Olsen drew on his own career which featured gritty play with intelligent flair and went for a central midfield that will fight for control at every opportunity and strike down the wings rather than down the center. The change is not total, but is more one of emphasis on flexibility.

Both Andy Najar and Chris Pontius are more than willing to go at opponents directly and go to the end line or center as play allows. They are serious threats and often require double coverage. By next weekend, you can expect the Revolution to adjust, but Olsen may have good answers.

The coach cited Josh Wolff as his man of the match and I agree. He has lost no real speed and now seasons his play with exceptional movement to support those with the ball by finding the space to open killer passes.

As future opponents focus on closing down DC’s new wide play, he will find some space behind the doubling defenders. In turn, his dangerous runs will relieve pressure on Najar and Pontius.

Toward the end of 2010, one could see that Olsen was already putting in place the final element needed to complete United’s attacking game, effective supporting runs in the attacking third. These will now come from Wolff and the resurgent Charlie Davies, who has superior speed and vision very much like Wolff’s. The new DC United should soon be mounting a fully balanced attack.

The reserve match on Sunday allowed Branko Boskovic, Fred, and Santino Quaranta to demonstrate that Olsen has a strong bench with some capability to change the flow of play. During his brief play on Saturday and again Sunday, Quaranta continued his own tendency to drift to the center as did Fred on Sunday.

Both have solid talent and are willing to go at defenders and run in support of teammates, however, their play is less suited to the wide style that has now been implemented. They will be of greater value if they can adjust to the change, but still important if some change in game flow is required.

Scoring Summary:

DC — Josh Wolff 1 (Jed Zayner 1) 51
DC — Charlie Davies 1 (penalty kick) 63
DC — Charlie Davies 2 (Marc Burch 1) 77
CLB — Robbie Rogers 1 (penalty kick) 79

Misconduct Summary:

CLB — Dilly Duka (caution; Reckless Tackle) 16
DC — Marc Burch (caution; Reckless Tackle) 38
DC — Josh Wolff (caution; Shirt Removal) 52
CLB — Julius James (caution; Reckless Tackle) 60

Lineups:

Columbus Crew — William Hesmer, Sebastian Miranda, Julius James, Chad Marshall, Rich Balchan, Dejan Rusmir, Emmanuel Ekpo, Eddie Gaven, Dilly Duka (Robbie Rogers 66), Jeff Cunningham (Tommy Heinemann 60), Andres Mendoza.
Substitutes Not Used: Kevin Burns, Andy Iro, Emilio Renteria, Josh Williams, Andy Gruenebaum.

D.C. United — Pat Onstad, Jed Zayner (Rodrigo Brasesco 70), Dejan Jakovic, Perry Kitchen, Marc Burch, Andy Najar, Dax McCarty, Clyde Simms, Chris Pontius, Joseph Ngwenya (Charlie Davies 52), Josh Wolff (Santino Quaranta 83).
Substitutes Not Used: Branko Boskovic, Blake Brettschneider, Kurt Morsink, Joe Willis.

Referee: Mark Geiger
Referee’s Assistants: Eric Boria; Sean Hurd
4th Official: Landis Wiley
Attendance: 18,132
Time of Game: 1:51
Weather: Partly Cloudy and 55 degrees