Fabian Espindola vs Dallas goal celebration
Tony Quinn

Talking Strategy: D.C. United vs Philadelphia Union

Losing doesn’t sit well with this group. Not just because losing isn’t fun, but because they know they’re good enough to win on any given day. 

“There was still some frustration when we got back to work Tuesday,” Goalkeeping Coach Preston Burpo said today. “Talking about the game before training, the mood and the disappointment was lingering. I think, by now, those feelings are put aside, but there was a lot of frustration, which is understandable on everyone’s part, the staff, the players and the fans.”

All were in agreement that the frustration has been shelved, and the focus has shifted to facing Philadelphia—a team struggling in the standings.

“We talked about it last week; just because Portland hadn’t won, and they struggled a little bit in the table, didn’t mean we relax,” Burpo explained. “It’s the same with Philly. They’re still a good team, and still have players that create chances. Having the mentality to go out, grind away and, when the chances do come, take advantage of it.”

While focusing on capitalizing on its chances, D.C. United needs to nullify the Union’s attempts on goal. With several players capable of putting a goal away, all players in Black-and-Red, not just the backline, are prepared to defend the net.

“The two guys that will start up top for us, they always do a good job of pressing when it’s time to press, and making sure the guys behind follow and when it’s not time,” Burpo stated. “Keeping guys like [Vincent] Nogueira off the ball is key and [Cristian] Maidana if he ends up playing—he’s clever. We need to deal with Wenger; he hasn’t scored a lot, but his movement is dangerous. If they bring Conor Casey in, he’s a classic big boy target up top. He is clever and can get his head on the ball. There’s also Sebastian LeToux, who can get a good ball into the box.”

Someone who will most likely be tasked with defending these talented players is Chris Korb, who started his first match of 2014 against Portland after undergoing knee surgery earlier this season.

“He got through 90 very well energy-wise,” Burpo recalled. “He was connected well with [Bobby] Boswell. He got forward, which helped. If Sean [Franklin] isn’t able to go, everyone is happy and comfortable with Korb.”

Another recently healthy United player is Eddie Johnson, who could feature on Saturday. With Johnson in, though, the game plan doesn’t change. There were plenty of positives, offensively, that the Black-and-Red will have to carry forward from Portland into Philly.

“The way our movement has been, we’ll give them a difficult time. Whether it’s Fabián [Espíndola] drifting out wide, or into the midfield, [Chris] Rolfe slashing through the middle, or [Davy] Arnaud’s movement, we’ll make it hard,” Burpo said. “Ideally, we keep our movement and keep making defenders make hard choices whether to step up into a pocket or sit back with the line.

“We’ll get chances off them, we feel confident about that. It’s just a matter of whether we can finish them,” Burpo concludes. 

United takes on I-95 rival Philadelphia Saturday, May 10th at 4 pm ET on Comcast SportsNet.