For the Black-and-Red, defense is critical. With United's first-ever Homegrown Player Bill Hamid providing cover in goal and leading the league in saves, MLS veteran Bobby Boswell at the heart of the defense and MLS Cup winner Sean Franklin, the Black-and-Red are well-versed in defending. Leidos, the presenting partner of D.C. United, is a global science and technology leader in defense. Whether it's air, land, sea, space, or cyberspace, Leidos meets challenges and provides solutions. Sponsored by Leidos, this weekly feature delves into some of the defensive storylines for United's next match.
United’s heating-up attack meets a susceptible Montreal defense this Saturday when the Black-and-Red host the Impact at 6PM.
The Montreal Impact, sitting in tenth in the Eastern Conference, have conceded 14 goals thus far and are tied for most goals conceded in the East, averaging less than a point per game. With no shutouts on the season, the Impact defense has been shaky through Week 9, giving up multiple goals to Seattle, Chicago, LA, Philadelphia, and Vancouver.
The Black-and-Red will look to leverage the speed and dribbling ability of their midfield to take advantage of a back line that has proved vulnerable to the counterattack.
Saturday’s match will be a prime opportunity for United to continue to build attacking momentum and work toward fully regaining the offensive firepower they displayed at the end of last season, especially with forward Patrick Mullins gradually reentering the lineup after recovering from a hamstring injury suffered in Week 3. Midfielders Luciano Acosta and Lamar Neagle will also likely have favorable matchups against the Impact, as 22-year-old Kyle Fisher, who has played only five matches for Montreal in two years, has filled in as a center back after a Hassoun Camara head injury. Acosta, who scored his third goal of the season and added an assist last week, and Neagle, who created an Atlanta own goal, have the potential to exploit the mismatch with the inexperienced Fisher on Saturday as United work toward regaining their 2016 deftness.
“I don’t know if we’ve found that same form yet, but it’s nice that goals are going in," Sam said of United recreating the offensive prowess they discovered at the conclusion of last season. "I feel like we could find that form again in these next three home games."
While United’s defense will still need to remain disciplined against the likes of midfielders Ignacio Piatti (three goals, one assist), Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla (one goal), and Patrice Bernier (four assists), the Black-and-Red back line has proved its resiliency over the last two matches, recovering from early road deficits to earn a draw at New England and a win in Atlanta.
“Bill [Hamid] made some really good saves, and we defended the box after that flurry pretty well,” head coach Ben Olsen said of his defenders and goalkeeper following the victory over Atlanta last weekend. “Our guys had to dig in and defend the box.”
Even with center back and captain Steve Birnbaum missing the last two matches due to a concussion, the Black-and-Red defense has risen to the challenge, preventing the New England Revolution (tied for second-most goals in the East) from earning a home win and holding Atlanta (most goals in the East) to only one score. Now back at RFK after a tough three-match road trip, United’s back line will look to bunker down and add to their shutout total during their three-match homestand.