Dust off your trainers, buy that new jersey, do whatever it is that you do for D.C. United match day - because it is officially that time again. Match week in the DMV!
After a trying couple of years it feels like DCU are finally back for real. No neutral site tournaments and no crazy midweek fixtures.. just football (soccer) the way the MLS gods intended.
Let’s get into it!
Things for Charlotte FC are looking…… bad.
In the last 2 weeks Charlotte has had multiple signings fall through due to an injury and a possible legal dispute over an alleged bar fight. Additionally, the club have received some heat for not pulling the trigger on our guy, Paul Arriola. Further, Charlotte FC Manager, Miguel Angel Ramirez, recently held a press conference where he openly stated;
“We are screwed”
To cap it off, Charlotte were involved in a benches clearing incident with the Columbus Crew during a pre-season friendly.
While results may not matter in pre-season, the fact that Charlotte lost to (and were outplayed by) the Charleston Battery does not seem good. Importantly, in their game against Charleston, Charlotte struggled to deal with the high press. Considering DCU will definitely implement the high press – and implement it very effectively at that - expect this to be a deciding factor in the opener. Charlotte have also yet to sign any real impact wingers (reference the failed deals above). They’ve signed what seems to be a good target man in Karol Swiderski; however, will he get any service? If Swiderski plays as a holdup striker, who will he hold the ball up for? He's not an individual playmaker, so it will be interesting to see how he is utilized. There are A LOT of holes and question marks right now for Charlotte, especially in the attack.
To quote every UFC commentator; “styles make fights”. Well, unfortunately for Charlotte, DCU’s style is one that directly exploits their current holes. It really couldn’t be a worse matchup for them. Look for DCU’s wing pairing of Gressel and Smith to run wild come Saturday.
Given Charlotte’s possible struggles with the press and potential lack of midfield/wing cohesion, I expect them to be physical and to play direct – even if that’s not what they intent to do at the outset. This should be a really nice test for Moses Nyeman, if he starts.
Not only does the current status of Charlotte FC allude to a potential mismatch in DCU’s favor –so does MLS history. Here are the facts;
1) D.C. United have never lost against an expansion team playing their inaugural match.
a. DCU defeated Miami Fusion 2-0 in the Fusion’s first ever match in 1998.
b. DCU defeated Chivas USA 2-0 in Chivas’ first ever match in 2005.
2) Since 1998, expansion teams have a 5-13-3 record in their inaugural match.
a. Only 2 of those 5 wins have been on the road.
b. 7 of 21 inaugural matches played by expansion teams have ended in a 2-0 defeat for the expansion side.
3) D.C. United are 25-10-7 all time against expansion teams playing their first season in MLS (all regular season games).
Looking at these stats, a good bet would be for DCU to win 2-0. However, after watching DCU’s last pre-season match, I am a bit worried about the defense. Last year, DCU gave up a lot of goals (54). And in Saturday’s pre-season game against the Galaxy, our starting XI did give up a couple of weaker goals. While Losada’s system is exciting, it does lend itself to goals against. The question for opening kickoff will be, ‘what kind of threat can Charlotte FC pose going forward’? Right now their attack doesn’t seem a huge threat, but we don’t know what we don’t know.
Stats, history, and roster holes allude to a big win for DCU. And the oddsmakers in Vegas seem to agree. At current writing DCU are -400 favorites. The total number of goals for this matchup is set at 2.5.
For me, I’m predicting 2-1 to the good guys...mainly because I'm uneasy about our ability to keep a clean sheet.
See you all on Saturday!
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