Fantasy Formations: D.C. United

Posted In Features - By Bryan Ashlock On Sunday, March 6th, 2011 With 1 Comment

In this post I’m going to take a look at how D.C. United played last season and how, if I were managing the club, they should line up this season. I’m relying on information from the folks over at Football Lineups to provide some data from last season and my own wit and soccer acumen to provide the inspiration for this season.

This will be Ben Olsen’s first full season in charge at the club and I don’t think anyone is really sure what to expect from him tactically. Last season, under both Olsen and Curt Onolfo, D.C. United deployed two strikers in all but one of their games. The Black and Red played primarily a 4-1-3-2 with Kurt Morsink occupying the deeper role in midfield. In the games they didn’t line up in this formation D.C. used a flat 4-4-2. As we all know, these tactics worked so well for D.C. that they managed to finish in last place with a goal differential of -26.

The forward ranks at D.C. United have been bolstered by the arrivals of Joseph Ngwenya and Josh Wolff, which is good because DCU scored a league low 21 goals last season. They’ve also brought in some guy named Charlie Davies on loan. People seem to think he’s pretty good, but I don’t know much about him.

The midfield added Dax McCarty, who should finally do what Stephen King and Morsink couldn’t do last season; replace Ben Olsen. McCarty is an effective distributor and also does a pretty good job of breaking up play. Add in a healthy Clyde Simms and a full pre-season for Branko Boskovic and United suddenly have three very good central midfielders. Fred also returns to D.C. after a good season with the Philadelphia Union and should be a useful player to have. On the wings the Black and Red have Andy Najar, last season Rookie of the Year, Santino Quaranta and Chris Pontius.

At the back D.C. hope to have shored up their leaky defense with the addition of Perry Kitchen. Additionally the team will have to hope that Dejan Jakovic has his head in the game this year. He looked lost at times last season and made way to many mental errors. Jed Zayner and Marc Burch seem like the likely candidates for the fullback positions.

So, what should Ben Olsen do with the team? There’s no question that the midfield is a strength for this club. And even with the addition of Charlie Davies (who I’ve heard is quite fast), Josh Wolff, and Joseph Nwenya the strikeforce is still week. If I’m Olsen I’m deploying my team in a 4-5-1. Simms will occupy the deeper holding role in midfield to help out that leaky defense and allowing McCarty and Brankovic to play more creative roles. Najar and Pontius/Quaranta will play as advanced wingers and Davies is my lone striker.

The problem with this is that Davies is not your typical center forward. Sure if you play a through ball Davies is probably going to win a foot race with any MLS defender, but he’s not a powerful target man. In this formation McCarty and Boskovic will have to get forward to provide more bodies in the box for the wingers to aim at. Ngwenya is perhaps better suited to the center forward role, but his lack of a goal scoring track record precludes him from playing as the lone striker.

There you have it, that’s how D.C. United should play. They have to take advantage of their midfield depth and hope that the post-injury Charlie Davies is a reasonable facsimile of the pre-injury Charlie Davies. Otherwise, this team will struggle for goals and find itself propping up the table for the second season in a row.


About Bryan Ashlock - Soccer aficionado living in Atlanta. Contributor to Cartilage Free Captain, a Tottenham Hotspur blog on SBNation. Follow me on twitter @BryanAshlock

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  1. Kevin McCauley says:

    Good stuff here. A couple of things:

    Joseph Ngwenya was very good for D.C. last night in their pre-season game dropping off Wolff to link with the midfield and distribute to his teammates.

    Daniel Woolard was great at left back, as he has been all pre-season, and I expect him to beat Burch for the job.

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