IMAGE: Leidos Atlanta

United look to capitalize against Atlanta's high press

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 for United's next match.

United host MLS expansion side Atlanta United FC on Wednesday, June 21, at 7:30 PM at RFK Stadium. Playing at home for the final time until July 22, the Black-and-Red will be hoping to expose Atlanta United’s high-pressing full backs Greg Garza and Tyrone Mears.

Pressing up the field is always a high risk, high reward proposition for teams. In the previous match, it ended up all risk for Tata Martino’s side, who fell 1-3 at Bobby Dodd Stadium to United. Garza and Mears’ risky positioning should provide opportunities for United’s full backs to connect with forwards on the wing.

During the last match, Atlanta’s full back pair spent most of the game in United’s half. But Garza and Mears lost possession 28 times, with Garza accounting for 20 such losses, including a strip by Jared Jeffery in United’s half which lead to D.C.’s third goal, a counter attack finished by Sébastien Le Toux.

The play was just one of Jeffrey's 48 tackles on the season, good for best on the Black-and-Red. Look for Jeffrey and other midfielders to take advantage of Atlanta's carelessness with possession at times, starting with the left back. Garza’s loose nature with the ball has continued, as he lost possession 18 times in Atlanta’s recent 3-1 over the Columbus Crew. Patrick Nyarko and Lloyd Sam will want to take advantage of the space behind Garza thanks to his potentially troublesome combination of high pressing and losing possession.

Jeffrey is not only leading the team in tackles, but the 27-year-old is tied for fifth in MLS for tackles won. The center midfielder has been a strong component of both United's defense and midfield, stopping opposition's attacks and starting moves the other way.  Against a side like Atlanta who like to throw numbers forward, winning the ball back can lead to more counter attacks just like the one that led to Le Toux's goal in April. The match is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 PM.

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