Defending Dom Dwyer

How Philadelphia can shut down one of most productive forwards in MLS

Anyone who has been watching the MLS season has gotten to know the name Dom Dwyer.

The 24-year-old Englishmen who plays for Sporting KC has been wreaking havoc on all MLS defenses that have come in his path.

He currently sits in second place in goals scored this season with 14, and leads the entire league in shots with 73. Dwyer has amassed these impressive numbers in only 21 games this season, scoring at a rate of almost one goal a game (.75 to be exact). Twice this season he has scored a brace at home, and has been held scoreless in Sporting's last three contests; he will be itching for goals v. Philadelphia. 

What all of this means, is that the Union will have their hands full come Friday.

So how do you go about stopping the newly proclaimed “selfie-king.”

It’s going to take a team effort but it starts with Ray Gaddis. Gaddis has been Philadelphia’s most consistent presence in the back all season. His speed has been his best asset which will come in handy when going up against Dwyer.

Dwyer stands at average height but there is nothing average about his pace. He is known for making marauding runs in behind defenses, but luckily for the Union plays a similar game to Bradley Wright-Phillips who Philadelphia faced two weeks ago.

Gaddis will certainly need help at times with Dwyer, he is the type of forward who links up well with midfielders behind him and doesn’t remain stagnant on one side of the field, which is where Maurice Edu comes into play.

The experienced midfielder, turned center back, will be tasked with covering for Gaddis when Dwyer is played balls over the top of the back line like Sporting love to do. Edu has played against top notch talent for his entire career, and has seen forwards who perform at a world-class level. This experience will come in handy on Friday.

Mo has served as a calming presence in the back since his move to the defensive line earlier this season. Dwyer is live-wire type of forward that never stops moving, and makes a habit of getting underneath defenders skin with his antics. Edu will have to make sure this does not happen.

It’s unclear who Curtin will play at the other outside back position as we’ve seen Fabinho, Ethan White, and Austin Berry all featured. For the matchup against Dwyer, Berry may make the most sense physically but his lack of real game time this season could prevent him from securing that spot. No matter who lines up on the opposite side of the field from Gaddis it will be their job to cover the back end of plays, and make sure that they don’t lose sight of the slippery forward.

Sporting is also dangerous in their build up play, with two US national team members Benny Feilhaber and Grahama Zusi (the latter featured on this year’s WC squad) pulling the strings to set up Dwyer up top. Philadelphia cannot sleep on these integral members of Sporting because Dwyer only performs his magic with assistance from his fellow wizards.

What may be the biggest hindrance to Philadelphia shutting down Dwyer is the atmosphere of Sporting KC, and their fans. Sporting Park has stark similarities to PPL it’s a smaller, soccer-specific venue, with rabid fans who support Sporting KC from a place in the stands known as “The Cauldron.” The 2013 MLS champions have had 46 straight sellouts, and have sold out every home game this season. While it's no Sons of Ben, the Union will hear it on Friday.

A positive sign for Philadelphia is that they have already been to Sporting Park and come out with a victory. The downside, Dwyer found the back of the net that game and has been on a tear ever since. 

Both teams are in the top 10 in goals scored this season in the MLS, so you can be sure that the ball will find the back of the net. If Philly can make sure Dwyer isn’t responsible for any those their chances look bright.

How do you think the Union will go about defending Dwyer? Leave your comment below. 

Contact Union writer Doug Ammon at dammon@philadelphiaunion.com