For the Black-and-Red, defense is critical. With United's first-ever Homegrown Player Bill Hamid providing cover in goal, 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.
Two ever-evolving back lines will match up on Saturday when D.C. United play host to the Philadelphia Union for the second time this season. Injuries and roster additions have shifted D.C. and Philadelphia's potential back lines, and both sides enter Week 11 with various defensive combinations at their disposal.
The Black-and-Red have played with five unique defensive combinations in their nine matches and have additional options thanks to their depth. Bobby Boswell and Steve Birnbaum regularly pair in the center, since Birnbaum suffered a concussion against the New York Red Bulls, Kofi Opare has filled the void and Sean Franklin have also featured at center back. Franklin has also spent time at his natural position at right back. Taylor Kemp normally anchors United on the back left but missed a match due to illness, while Nick DeLeon has played six matches on the right, splitting the role with Franklin.
United's wealth of defensive reserves provide Ben Olsen additional combinations as the Black-and-Red push deeper into their season. Homegrown Player Jalen Robinson made four strong appearances with the back line last season, including a Team of the Week performance against the New England Revolution. Standout University of Maryland defender and MLS SuperDraft selection Chris Odoi-Atsem made his MLS debut against Atlanta United and provides youthful energy off the bench, while United's recent re-signing of defender Chris Korb, who has 105 career MLS appearances, also gives the Black-and-Red additional veteran experience in the back.
Philadelphia's defense has been similarly dynamic as Jim Curtin's side looks to rise from the bottom of the East. Veteran Fabinho has started every match for the Union thus far, but the remainder of the back line continues to feature new combinations. Richie Marquez, a normal starter in center back, missed the Union's last match due to illness and was replaced by 21-year-old Jack Elliott, who has made five appearances in 2017.
Oguchi Onyewu and Keegan Rosenberry received starting spots to open the season but have since lost play time, with Onyewu sitting three consecutive matches before returning to the lineup last weekend and Rosenberry sitting two consecutive matches before entering as a sub last weekend. Raymon Gaddis has filled in with three consecutive starts at right back after not appearing in the Union's first six matches, while Philadelphia's roster includes five additional defenders looking to pick up their first appearances of 2017.
With Saturday's matchup looming, expect the Eastern Conference foes to continue to tweak their defensive lineups and strategies in preparation of the high-stakes meeting. United are determined to rebound from Saturday's loss by picking up their second victory over the Union on the season, while Philadelphia are desperate for additional points after finally earning their first win of the season last weekend.