D.C. United is off to a rough start, not getting the results that they were hoping for three games into the season. Next up is last year’s supporters shield runners up, FC Dallas, up next on the schedule. Two draws and a loss following a CONCACAF Champions League Quarter-finals exit in which they only scored one goal, leaves the red and black searching for their first win of the young season. It should not come as a shock to those who pay close attention to the club, that they are not a team that will light up the opponents net. However, the off season additions and changes were supposed to help ease that burden.
The offseason additions of Lamar Neagle and Luciano Acosta were supposed to add youth and speed to the teams scoring options while having veteran presence complements Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio. The good news is that the four strikers have combined for 100% of the scoring so far this season; the bad news is that the team has only scored two goals while the league has seen 90 goals combined in that same timeframe. That’s a 4.5 goal average per team, meaning DC’s two goals are dead last along with Columbus, Colorado and Seattle.
Lamar Neagle succeeded in Seattle as a left winger, yet unfortunately now he is being asked to play as a main striker, along with Luciano Acosta who is also playing out of his natural position. Looking at the team stats through the early season, D.C. is tied for 5th place with the Red Bulls in shots taken (43) and tied for 7th place with four other teams in shots on goal (15). So while they seem to be taking shots, they are not converting them, a factor in the lack of scoring may be taking too many shots from outside of the box. In each of the games played so far, D.C. has taken 50% or more of their shots per game from beyond the 18 yard box. In contrast, the leading goal scoring team in the league so far, Houston Dynamo, has only reached the 50% shot percentage outside the 18 yard box in only one game this season, the other games they were at 25% and 36% percentages.
Another area of struggle for D.C. is that despite the revamped midfield that includes Nick Deleon playing the attacking and center midfield role, Patrick Nyarko manning the right wing and Marcelo Sarvas as the defensive workhorse midfielder, the team continues to struggle with possession. The team has lost the possession battle in all three games so far this season with possessions of 41.8%, 40.2%, and 49.5% against L.A., New England and Colorado, respectively. There was more of a balanced possession against Colorado, so perhaps the midfield is beginning to come around, or it could be attributed to the fact that the Rapids aren’t a heavy possession squad themselves. Either way, the lack of a possession game affects the attacking game negatively and for some reason leads to too many shots from outside of the box.
The red and black now faces an international break ravaged FC Dallas squad who will be missing seven of their players, out on national duty. However, two of the team’s most dangerous players, Fabian Castillo and Mauro Diaz, are expected to play, meaning that D.C.’s possession woes could continue if the midfield continues to experience trouble playing together. The shots have been there so far this season for D.C., now it’s a matter of making those shots count.