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Tactical Preview: D.C. United

01 June 8:40 am

Tactical Preview: D.C. United

By Stephen Piggott

The Fire entertain lowly D.C. United this Sunday at Toyota Park (LIVE 4pm CT on My50/UniMas) after a week of very positive results in MLS and U.S. Open Cup play. The Men in Red got a credible draw at RSL before traveling to South Carolina to take on the Charlotte Eagles, winning 2-0 and advancing to the fourth round of the Cup.

D.C. dropped a 2-0 result to Portland at RFK Stadium last weekend and squeezed by the Richmond Kickers on penalties in the Cup at midweek. Here are some tactical things to look out for during Sunday afternoon’s game.

Magee and Rolfe – a budding partnership to continue up front?

Fire newbie Mike Magee made his debut against the Eagles on Tuesday and combined well with Chris Rolfe up front with both players tallying in the win.

Rolfe and Magee looked to get each other involved in the attack and tried to play as close to one another as possible.

Coach Frank Klopas indicated after signing Magee that he feels his best position is playing up front and because both he and Rolfe are so mobile, it makes sense to continue to start the pair against a D.C. team
that has struggled on the defensive end this season.

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Soumare, Rolfe preview D.C. United

Magee showed on Tuesday how much of a threat he is in the air and his inclusion in front of Maicon Santos and Sherjill MacDonald will not hurt the Fire in terms of having an aerial threat up front.

Magee’s move up front also allows Patrick Nyarko to slot back into a wide position which allows him to be more creative and take players on.

This new partnership has the potential to blossom into a very successful one and the more time both players get to spend on the field together, the better.

Exposing the Kitchen/DeLeon partnership – taking advantage when one gets forward

In D.C.’s last game against Portland the team played Nick DeLeon and Perry Kitchen together in the middle of the field, similar to how the Fire play with Jeff Larentowicz and Logan Pause.

When D.C. attacked, either DeLeon or Kitchen would get forward to support Chris Pontius and Carlos Ruiz.

This left the team with only one holding midfielder and Portland took full advantage of this, breaking at every opportunity and opening D.C. up with either a long ball into space or attacking through the middle where they only faced one holding player.

Portland’s stretching of the field during the counter attacks opened up huge pockets of space in the middle and players like Will Johnson and Darlington Nagbe were able to get forward and put real pressure on the United defense. 

Kitchen is a more disciplined player than the sophomore DeLeon and the Fire must look to try and take advantage of this when D.C. turn the ball over in an advanced position.

Keeping an eye on Kyle Porter – DC’s tricky winger

I admit that the Portland/DC game was the first time I had seen Kyle Porter play and he impressed me a lot. Porter reminded me of a young Justin Mapp, a player with great promise but who can also be very frustrating at times.

Porter is very good in 1v1 situations but sometimes tries to do too much with the ball and not make the simple pass. Porter’s crossing ability is also very impressive and he put numerous free kicks into dangerous positions.

Porter combined well with veteran James Riley on the right wing and Fire left back Gonzalo Segares will be tested on Sunday night. That being said, Porter can also be a bit naive on the defensive side of the ball and the Fire should look to exploit the space behind him if he is slow to track back.

Prediction: Statistically, D.C. is the weakest team in MLS and with the Fire playing at home, three points is a must. 2-0 Fire with goals from Chris Rolfe and Dilly Duka.