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 second half of the season underway, United are looking for a strong defensive effort to finish their league campaign and to narrow the divide between themselves and the playoffs. With Nick DeLeon returning from hernia surgery and Sean Franklin back in the mix following a hamstring injury, Ben Olsen has several options in the back line. Add in the good form of Chris Korb and rookie Chris Odoi-Atsem, and United have a depth chart at right back most coaches would be envious of.
“It’s a log jam there at right back,” Olsen said. “We certainly aren’t hurting for that position. It's a good problem to have”
While DeLeon is listed as a midfielder, he has played at outside back before, remaining versatile to fit United's lineup needs.
“Nick has developed into a good right back," Olsen said. “He's a guy we know we can play in four or five different spots. He’s always willing to do whatever we need from a team standpoint.”
Sean Franklin’s return also brings much needed experience to United's defense. At 32 years old, the Californian veteran has logged over 21,000 professional minutes and is still going strong.
Chris Korb played well leading up to the FIFA international break, including assisting on the game-winning goal against Atlanta United on June 21. Prior to that, the defender eclipsed 100 starts with United, a feat passed by only four other D.C. defenders.
While Chris Odoi-Atsem is United’s youngest right back at 22 years old, he has still played in six games this season and performed at a high level. Describing the rookie as “a very promising young talent,” Olsen has included Odoi-Atsem in the starting lineup in three of his six games played.
“I’ve got two pretty good teams of 11 out there — it’s nice to see,” Olsen said. “It's going to give me a sleepless night or two on who our best group is right now to move forward from a starting standpoint.”
When the Houston Dynamo come to RFK on Saturday, July 22, they will be bring their winless road record and only six away goals scored with them. With United’s newfound depth in defense, it doesn’t appear things will get any easier for the Texans.
The game kicks off at 7 PM ET on NewsChannel 8 and CW Richmond.