Each week we do a Q&A with our friends around the SBNation Soccer world to get thoughts on their team from those who know them best. Know your enemy!
Q.) The season started quietly for DC United with the team taking two points from its first four games. Since then, eight from five has DC back in the mix in the Eastern Conference. What changed at the halfway point of the team's first nine games that has made the difference? It looks like its been a function of the team's attack. Has there been a tactical change there that has enabled more scoring or are certain players stepping up?
Ben: The main difference is that fact that D.C. United's brand new midfield has gotten more and more time together. Marcelo Sarvas is new to this team, and Nick DeLeon is brand new in the center of midfield. Sarvas has done a great job of stepping in for the retired Davy Arnaud, and Nick DeLeon is in the top 10 for the league is passing completion rate with almost 88%. Exciting attacking midfielder Luciano Acosta and steady MLS veteran Patrick Nyarko have also been a big part of the team getting better on offense. Acosta brings a creativity that the team hasn't had in years, and Nyarko is a wily winger who can create chances for anyone (and has been scoring some as well). The formation has basically been the same all year, with the exception of last week's game where both DeLeon and Sarvas were missing, and so it has mostly been a factor of people getting comfortable in their roles.
Q.) Luciano Acosta and Patrick Nyarko were big additions for D.C. United in the offseason as the team attempted to bolster its offensive attack following the loss of Luis Silva. How would you assess their play so far this season? What kind of impact have they had and how much do you expect from them moving forward?
Ben: They've both played well so far, with Nyarko playing even better than I think most could have hoped for. Both of them now demand minutes on the field, and Nyarko is a lock at the right wing. The problem with Acosta is not really a problem with him at all: it is that United needs to find the best player to play alongside him as he figures out his role more and more on this team. At this point, however, I think he deserves to be the first forward on the lineup sheet, and then figure out the other player around him.
Q.) After finishing fourth and losing out in the semi-finals last year, it's safe to say D.C. had a successful 2015 campaign. What were expectations coming into this season and, in your estimation, is the team meeting its potential? What kind of change or improvement could you envision pushing the team to make a similar or more successful playoff run?
Ben: We all want D.C. United to take the next step and reach at least the conference finals for the first time since 2012; the last two years have been very successful, especially given the 2013 season, but now it is time to take a step up. The team has realized this and spent more money this offseason, using the targeted allocation money that the league graciously bestowed. They also will still hopefully make a move this summer, perhaps for a forward to complement Acosta. However, given the team's economic situation from playing at RFK Stadium, the team is somewhat overachieving. I know it isn't a popular thing to say, but Ben Olsen has gotten as much out of this situation as any coach could. When Bill Hamid comes back anything is possible for this team, and hopefully they can enter the playoffs on a hot streak and really contend there.
Starting XI and Prediction?
Travis Worra; Sean Franklin, Steve Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, Taylor Kemp; Patrick Nyarko, Nick DeLeon, Marcelo Sarvas, Lamar Neagle; Luciano Acosta, Alvaro Saborio
2-1 to United, who find a way to win at home.
Thanks again to Ben, even if he's picked against NYC. Have your own prediction for the match? Let us hear it in the comment's section.