MLS: Three keys to United vs. Columbus

MLS: Three keys to United vs. Columbus
March 19, 2011, 12:22 am
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Friday, March 18, 2011 8:22 PMBy Sebastian Salazar

Flank duel

With Andy Najar and possibly Chris Pontius on the wings, United should have no trouble creating opportunities from their flanks. How D.C. deals with Columbus' wide midfield players could be a deciding factor come Saturday.

"Robbie (Rogers) and Eddie (Gaven), they love to get up the flank," said United outside back (and former Crew player) Jed Zayner, who will likely matchup with Rogers on Saturday. "You've got to expect them to just come out of nowhere and get in behind you, you have to be aware all the time."

Because of their attacking skill-sets, expect D.C.'s outside middies to play high, which means a lot of responsibility for Zayner and whoever his opposite number on the left side of United's back line ends up being.
Creation Theory

No need to rehash how bad United's attack was last year, but in addition to their inability to finish, D.C. struggled just to create chances in 2010. With a renewed emphasis on off-the-ball movement and an overall better batch of attacking players, chances shouldn't be as tough to come by this season.

Though there are a lot of new pieces, in attack, perhaps none is more important than Dax McCarty. Perceived by many as a gritty midfield player, McCarty will need to show off his abilities as a creative force centrally. His teammates have little doubt he can do just that.

"It's one thing just to keep the ball, but we've got to create the opportunities and obviously take them," said forward Josh Wolff. "I think Dax does a great job of being a guy who not only find the game really well, but also make it easy for the guys in advancing the ball."Dead Serious

Though it's an important element of any game, pay especially close attention to dead balls on Saturday. Columbus has a long-standing reputation as one of the best in the league from set pieces and United has been focused on it all week.

Chad Marshall's name came up a couple times in post-practice discussions on Friday as the Crew's top threat on corners and free kicks. I'd imagine Dejan Jakovic will seek out the Marshall matchup in such situations, and with both guys being about 6-foot-3, it'll come down to focus and effort as to who comes out on top.
NOTES: Per usual, speculation on United's starting eleven was the topic of the day among the gathered media Friday at RFK. I won't go into my ideal first-team, but I do think that Charlie Davies will come off the bench Saturday. Not that Davies isn't worthy of a starting spot, I just think the club has plans to take it slow with their newest star. A few colleagues differed in that opinion, believing Davies had proven so much in preseason that Olsen couldn't honestly keep him off the field. Click the links for starting 11 projections from The Examiner's Craig Stouffer and The Post's Paul Tenorio.