Tampa Bay Sports Day

FC Dallas poses stern test of United’s overall game

Coach Ben Olsen has DC United on the right track as the team crosses over the half way point at .500 (5-5-7). As they have become more used to one another and his system, the players seem to have become comfortable with his emphasis on strong supporting play.

All coaches talk a good game. The best obtain buy-in from their players by training them well and increasing their understanding of his approach to the game and how he wants it played. Beginning last year, Olsen gradually instilled an understanding of the need to move as a unit while maintaining width.

He has had to pay particular attention to the tendency of DC United’s strong cadre of wide midfielders to drift inside to an extraordinary extent. With the arrival of Dax McCarty, the team unintentionally reinforced this tendency.

It had been hoped that both McCarty and Clyde Simms could generate enough offense to allow the wide mids to patrol their sides and thereby maintain width. When it became obvious that McCarty was not well suited to the role, United made a wise trade to obtain the final cog in their attacking scheme.

The diamond midfield pairs solid cover man Simms behind Dwayne DeRosario, whose ability to either take on defenses or pass around them poses the central threat that will allow Chris Pontius and Andy Najar to keep the width that will open attacking channels for the entire striking cadre.

In turn, the stronger offensive threat allows the wide defenders to remain home a bit more often to lessen the stress on the central defense. That area, which would otherwise be United’s sole remaining weakness has been greatly improved with the addition of the strong and vocal Brandon McDonald.

With the return of Dejan Jakovic, the team will finally have some central defensive depth. His availability will allow Perry Kitchen to continue to play wide right to cover for the injuries to so many DC players.

The game Saturday at Dallas will provide a good test of whether the team has finally gelled.

On the injury front, the training staff has recently been more aggressive in post game recovery efforts. All players are encouraged to wear compression- recovery pants when they sleep. Many can be seen after games rolling the lactic acid from their muscles in the locker room.

The quick turnaround game on Wednesday against New England may show the benefits of the emphasis on recovery.