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.
With the FIFA international break coming to an end, United are gearing up to spur some positive momentum for the second half of the regular season. Wednesday's match in Seattle offers the Black-and-Red a perfect opportunity to do just that, as a road win over the defending MLS Cup champions would be a huge mental victory moving forward. While securing a win at CenturyLink Field is no easy feat, Ben Olsen's side could gain an advantage by frustrating Seattle's attack in the middle of the pitch, where United's strong play has been key to each of their wins.
The Black-and-Red have found the most success in stifling their opponents' attacks with aggressive play in the middle of the field through tackles and forced turnovers. When central midfielders Ian Harkes, Jared Jeffrey, and Marcelo combine to cut off passing lanes and play physical defense, United have disrupted opponents' attacking systems enough to limit conceded goals and pick up points.
In the June 21 win over Atlanta, Marcelo's team-leading five tackles helped prevent Atlanta's fiery attack from ever fully developing a rhythm. When United took down Vancouver on the road, Harkes led the Black-and-Red in completed passes, passing percentage, and tackles. The central men were also crucial in the April 30 win in Atlanta, as Harkes led the team in completed passes and passing percentage and Jeffrey dominated the defensive midfield with a team-high six tackles.
For Wednesday's match, the Black-and-Red central midfielders will be keeping an eye on how Clint Dempsey and Nico Lodeiro combine in the middle. Dempsey and Lodeiro both seem most comfortable in the number 10 slot, which often leads to limited space in the center of the field. United's defense will have the best chance at frustrating Seattle's attackmen if they can keep them compacted in the middle, leading to more opportunities to force turnovers and cut off passing lanes in such little space. If United can force Dempsey and Lodeiro to operate in a confined area and cut off their options to play wide, the Black-and-Red have a solid chance of leaving the Pacific Northwest with a win.