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.
The Black-and-Red will arrive at Saturday’s final Home Away From Home match at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md., coming off of a bye week and hungry for their first win of the season.
The off week has been valuable for United as they have had the opportunity to get healthier, especially on the defensive end.
Defensive midfielder Júnior Moreno is one key piece who returned to full training and has been upgraded from out to questionable as he builds toward full-game fitness.
While their teammates continue to mend and work toward returning to action, the back line knows their performance in Annapolis will be crucial. United will not play another home game until they open Audi Field on July 14, meaning Saturday's three points take on extra importance.
Though the results have not matched the effort, United’s defense has remained solid through the first five matches of the season. As a unit, the Black-and-Red defense is tied for fourth in MLS in headed clearances with 57 and third in the league in aerial duels won with 102. Defender Frédéric Brillant is also tied for fourth in the league with 31 clearances.
Structurally, the defense has remained solid through the majority of the early season, and the squad is confident that eventually the effort will translate into three points.
Taking those points from Columbus Crew SC will be a steep test, though. The Crew will be welcoming some familiar faces to their lineup in midfielder Wil Trapp and goalkeeper Zack Steffen, both of whom were absent from the previous meeting while on international duty with the U.S. Men’s National Team. Both players a key kogs in Columbus’ structure and will make the Crew even more of a challenge for the Black-and-Red this weekend.
“They are a very possession oriented team,” defender Nick DeLeon said. “They can keep the ball all they want in the back, but when they start dancing around in our half, that’s when they start to feel confidence. The key to beating Columbus is just being aggressive and frustrating them.”
A victory in Annapolis could prove to be a turning point for the Black-and-Red in the young season, and as the roster returns to full health, maintaining a resilient and structurally sound back line could prove to the difference for the home squad.