With six games of this MLS regular season to go, DC United have done extremely well to close in on the play-off places. Having only won twice in their first 14 games, after the arrival of Wayne Rooney they have shot up into top six contention.
But their play-off isn’t guaranteed just yet. They currently sit four points behind 6th place Montreal Impact with a game in hand. They hosted the Eastern Conference’s 2nd placed New York Red Bulls had here were some signs from their 3-3 draw that suggest they will break into that top six:
Wayne Rooney has had a huge impact on DC United since his long-awaited move from Everton. Many like to see this impact through numbers and Rooney, Manchester United’s leading goal-scorer, isn’t doing too bad with them as in his 12 DC appearances he’s racked up five goals and six assists.
Although these numbers are good, not many realise what sets him apart from others to reach them. Here’s an example from the weekend’s game.
This example shows that with Rooney’s quality in the team DC United are able to take more risks that could pay off. With him taking up positions like these, it gives those on the ball options and showing he’s still a great finisher will encourage anyone to keep giving him service.
Goals isn’t all Rooney offers though as his link-up play with those around him has led to his six assists. However, Against the Red Bulls, they showed that they weren’t just a one-man team.
Although its no coincidence that their form picked up drastically since Rooney’s arrival, DC United do have some exciting assets around him that have helped make the difference.
In particular, Luciano Acosta and Paul Arriola. Both play behind Rooney with Acosta more of a #10 and Arriola a winger, but both have flourished with the Englishman in the side. Attacking from deep, its harder for opposition defenders to pick them up which was often the case against the Red Bulls and resulted in a goal.
This style of attack has been very apparent over recent weeks for DC and can be very effective in helping them reach the play-offs. Whether its Rooney feeding Ariolla and Acosta or visa-versa, this although simple, looks to be one of their more effective methods of attack.
Despite conceding three against New York Red Bulls, there were some encouraging signs for DC going into the business end of the season. One reason for this is that they’ve moved from the 4-1-4-1 that was in use when Rooney arrived, to a 4-2-3-1, giving them a bit more stability when facing counter-attacks as seen below.
This type of approach, although it may not excite most during the game can end up paying great dividends for DC going forward. Rather than leaving themselves vulnerable, it allows them to regroup and make things difficult for those who face them.
However, this is something the players can’t bored of doing and jump out of line as they could get picked apart if someone does.
Overall, the run in looks encouraging for DC United if they can continue in a similar fashion. A goalkeeping mistake was the only thing from them taking three points against the Red Bulls so it was a positive outing.
However, playing Montreal Impact, who are four points and one place ahead of them, this weekend it’s imperative that they win. With the weapons they have in attack and the way they compliment each other, though it could be expected for them come out on top. Also, five of their last six games are at Audi Field where they’ve only lost three times so a big play-off push could well be on the Washington DC horizon.