Scouting Report: D.C. United

Carl Valentine looks at Saturday's opponent

This weekend, our Vancouver Whitecaps FC are back on the road, as they seek to continue their momentum from their 4-2 home win against Chicago Fire. Playing away from home has been no easy task for the ‘Caps, but this match against D.C. United could provide the tonic for that first win on enemy territory. United have had a strange season so far, with a better record on the road (4W-3L-3D) than at home (2W-3L-6D). With a chance that Whitecaps FC captain Jay DeMerit could return to the line-up, this should be a game in which the boys can really look forward to.

Passive aggressive

D.C. United have played their last two matches a man down after having sending-offs against San Jose, and most recently Toronto FC, yet they still managed to come away with a win and a draw. In fact, they played nearly the entire match against TFC a man short – as goalkeeper Bill Hamid was shown a red in the seventh minute – yet they still scored three goals en route to a 3-3 draw. This shows me that they are quite comfortable sitting back and absorbing pressure, then catching teams on the break. This tactic will not work as well at home, as visiting teams might be more likely to play a more defensive game on the road, which will force D.C. to play a more attacking game.

This could be the reason that United are having more success on the road, where their counter-attacking game is more appropriate. United have conceded 20 goals at home, but only 13 on the road, which suggests that they are more vulnerable on defence when they’re the aggressor and open up their attack at home, as opposed to their away tactics of putting lots of players behind the ball and catching opposing teams on the break.

Keys to success

In order to stymie United’s attack, the ‘Caps will of course have to keep a close eye on Canadian international Dwayne De Rosario, a man they’ve already faced twice this season – with two different teams, no less. De Rosario has been on fire since joining D.C., scoring six goals in six matches for United, and he is one of the deadliest players I have seen on the break. With Josh Wolf or Charlie Davies playing alongside him, he constantly has another active threat to support him up front. If the ‘Caps want to win, they absolutely cannot give De Rosario space to shoot.

At the back, United will be without first choice goalkeeper Hamid – due to his ejection against TFC. Hamid has been doing well of late and received a call-up to the United States national team by new head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. He was sorely missed versus Toronto, as replacement Steve Cronin was at fault for two of the three goals conceded in the 3-3 draw, and his confidence could be low going into this game. This should be an area the ‘Caps can exploit by testing Cronin early and often. If they can take the lead, they’ll force United to become more aggressive, which will then open up holes in their defence.

More recent road encounters against Seattle Sounders FC and San Jose Earthquakes suggest that the ‘Caps are learning and getting closer to that elusive first win on the road. This game is set up especially nicely, with Whitecaps FC head coach Tom Soehn having formerly been in charge of United, and therefore, having first-hand knowledge of their coaching staff and what it is like playing at RFK Stadium. I feel the team is in good position to get their first away win in MLS and give our fans another week of winning soccer.

Saturday's match between Whitecaps FC and D.C. United at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., kicks off at 4:30 p.m. PT and is live on Rogers Sportsnet (Pacific, West, and East) and Bell mobile devices. There will also be a pre-game show on Rogers Sportsnet Pacific and West at 4 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to Saturday's contest live on TEAM 1040 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 2:30 p.m. PT. TEAM 1040 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 6:30 p.m. PT.