For the Black-and-Red, defense is critical. With standout center backs Steven Birnbaum and Frédéric Brillant, MLS veteran goalkeepers Steve Clark and David Ousted, and United’s 2017 Defensive Player of the Year Kofi Opare at the heart of the back line, the Black-and-Red are well-versed in defending. Leidos—the presenting partner of D.C. United—provides systems, solutions, and services covering air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace for Defense and Intelligence customers worldwide. Sponsored by Leidos, this weekly feature delves into some of the defensive storylines for United.
New United defender Oniel Fisher has logged some serious air miles in the first two months of 2018. After joining D.C. following a trade with the Seattle Sounders, Fisher criss-crossed the country from Seattle to Florida to Las Vegas to the District over the course of preseason.
Despite all of the travel, the Jamaican defender has settled in with his new teammates and carved himself a place in the Black-and-Red’s backline. With starting spots still up for grabs ahead of the season opener, Fisher is focused on putting in the work to earn a place in the starting XI.
“Each day I try and get into the gym before practice in order to get mentally and emotionally ready for training,” Fisher said following Tuesday's session. “I’m trying just to get my body right, especially while I try to seal a starting spot.”
Fisher, and the United defenders that make up the back four on Saturday, will have their work cut out for them against Orlando. Though the Lions will be without offseason pick up, and former New York Red Bulls nemesis, Sacha Kljestan (suspension) and electric striker Dom Dwyer (injury), Orlando's revamped roster will give United a tough early test.
Knowing this, the Black-and-Red coaching staff have emphasized the importance of maintaining sound defensive structure and capitalizing on any chances to counterattack.
“We want to be a good defensive team and when we get the chance to attack and score goals we want to use those chances wisely,” Fisher said. “We want to create chances and finish off teams, and if we have the right mindset we should get a good result.”
And with a heavy load of away fixtures on the near horizon, Fisher knows that talent alone cannot carry himself or the team as they embark on their extended roadtrip while construction of their new home at Audi Field is completed. Positive mindsets and locker room chemistry will be key to navigating a challenging start to the schedule, and Fisher is committed to the team's plan for opening 2018 on a high note.
“It’s about keeping up the motivation and meeting the goals that the coaches want and playing the way they want us to play,” Fisher said. “We just have to keep working—it’s about getting reps and working every day. That’s the mentality each and every one of us has to have to make it work as we move forward to the first game.”
Mental toughness will be essential to carry the team through the early season's road trips, and Fisher is ready to do his part within the back line as the season unfolds this Saturday.