D.C. United will have to contend with Vancouver’s in-form defense when they host the Whitecaps at RFK Saturday night. Following a flurry of goals allowed in the first couple weeks of the season, the ‘Caps have conceded just once in the past three matches, and appear to be returning to the defensive level that carried them to a playoff finish in 2015. The Vancouver back four are comprised of both experienced and young talent: left back Jordan Harvey, who boasts eight years of MLS experience, has been a consistent force on both sides of the ball this season, while 21-year-old rookie right back Fraser Aird leads the team with 16 tackles. In addition, goalkeeper David Ousted has been named to two straight MLS Teams of the Week after posting consecutive shutouts against the Houston Dynamo and LA Galaxy. Ousted was particularly outstanding against the Galaxy last weekend, recording four saves, including a spectacular stop on a Gyasi Zardes volley in the 70th minute.
United have also improved their defensive form of late. After a 3-0 loss to FC Dallas, the Black-and-Red back line put in a solid defensive showing in a gritty 1-1 draw at San Jose last weekend, withstanding consistent pressure from the Earthquakes. Goalkeeper Travis Worra had an excellent evening, making a career-high five saves. D.C. also recently signed league veteran and two-time MLS All-Star goalkeeper Tally Hall, who will challenge Worra for minutes and provide competition at goalkeeper.
Though there have been no shortage of chances in the early part of the season, United have had difficulty finding the back of the net, scoring only three times in five matches. Given the amount of turnover this offseason, there’s no surprise that it would take a few games for the attack to gel, but all signs suggest that the Black-and-Red are close to finding their scoring groove. Offseason acquisition Lamar Neagle has been impressive on the left wing, earning an MLS Team of the Week nod for his performance last weekend against the San Jose Earthquakes, where his well-placed cross found Patrick Nyarko for a beautiful header goal. Nyarko, meanwhile, has looked lively on the opposite flank, liberally taking on defenders and creating dangerous opportunities for his teammates. And with fellow Argentines Fabián Espíndola, whose dramatic equalizer on March 20th earned United a 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids, and Luciano Acosta, who is beginning to settle in with his new teammates, along with last year’s team MVP Chris Rolfe, the offense has plenty of promise.