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.
United defender Steven Birnbaum has seen plenty in his five years with the Black-and-Red, and as he approaches his 100th MLS appearance (all with United), he remains committed to growing with his teammates and forging ahead.
After the loss last weekend to the Columbus Crew, Birnbaum was reflective and confident that the early-season kinks will continue to work themselves out, and is determined to keep pushing for continuous improvement alongside his teammates. The defender has remained one of the team's forefront leaders on the pitch and in the locker room, and with 99 MLS appearances and extensive experience under his belt, has played a key role in helping usher in the Black-and-Red's newest players to both D.C. and the league.
At 27 years old, Birnbaum is now one of the veterans on the team after an offseason that made United's group significantly younger overall. And even after five years with the club and in MLS, Birnbaum remains gracious for the opportunity to take the field with his teammates and for the Black-and-Red.
“I’m just thankful for the opportunity [with United],” Birnbaum said. “First of all for drafting me, and then for helping me grow and play that many games.”
This season, Birnbaum has paired with Frédéric Brillant in each of United's first four matches, forming the backbone of the club's new-look defense for 2018. It’s been a learning process for every player, but Birnbaum knows as one of the veterans in the locker room, he has a role in helping the team come together. And so far, he has seen strides every week.
“We got a lot of new guys this year, and starting from preseason I think we’ve done a good job of getting to know each other and our roles,” Birnbaum said. “We’ve brought some more guys in so right now it just takes time and we’ve been learning each other's tendencies each week in training.”
The group will face a tough test this weekend against Sporting Kansas City, the highest-scoring team in MLS so far in 2018. But Birnbaum and the group know that nothing is easy in this league, and the next 100 games of his career will not be any easier than the first 100. Despite the challenges, Birnbaum continues to forge ahead, striving toward his goals each time he takes the field, just as he has in his 99 career appearances thus far.
“Winning. You want to win as many [games] as possible, make the playoffs and make a push for the Cup,” Birnbaum said. “That’s my goal every time I step on the field.”