United rookie defender Odoi-Atsem goes 90 minutes in first MLS start

For the Black-and-Red, defense is critical. With captain and U.S. Men’s National Team defender Steve Birnbaum and MLS veteran Bobby Boswell at the heart of the defense alongside United's first-ever Homegrown Player Bill Hamid providing cover in goal, 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 surrounding the Black-and-Red.

Three matches in eight days usually spells lineup rotation, and in the Black-and-Red's second match, a midweek meeting with Orlando City SC at their new stadium in Florida, head coach called upon his eighth different back line in 13 MLS matches so far this season.  One newcomer to the fray was rookie right back Chris Odoi-Atsem, who recently celebrated his 22nd birthday only days prior.

The former University of Maryland player and Mitchellville, Md., native, Odoi-Atsem had previously made two appearances as a late second half substitute, making his professional debut against Atlanta in the 89th minute on April 30 and against Chicago at RFK on May 20. But with rotation crucial to Olsen amid a brutal cross-country stretch, United's number three took the field as part of the starting 11 on Wednesday night.

"I just wanted to defend well and get into the attack as much as I could," Odoi-Atsem said after the match. "It was great to get the first start, and hopefully I can build off the moment going forward."

The 22-year-old, who went the full 90 minutes, put in a respectable shift, leading the team in final third entries, penalty area entries and crosses from open play.  He made one tackle, had 46 touches and won two-thirds of his duels on the night. 

"Chris [Odoi-Atsem] got his first start and he will be a real piece to this team moving forward," Olsen said.