On talent alone, Luciano Acosta is one of the best creative midfielders in Major League Soccer. His 17 assists in 2018 were no accident, and PSG didn’t come calling just because they can throw around money at will (though… they can). Acosta’s two assists in 2019 — in nearly 2000 minutes — is, frankly, stunning. The Argentine’s growth last year was stunning, and his placidity now has prevented DC United from becoming the menacing force they evolved toward a year ago.
That has been a relief for the league, but it should also be a warning. If Acosta ever perks up, Ben Olsen’s team will become a true threat. The development of Lucas Rodriguez and the growing but still maddeningly-without-finishing force that is Paul Arriola should have turned DC into an attacking monster, but it hasn’t transpired. Still, United is one of the better road teams in the conference and with Red Bull and the Revs hot on their heels they may finally find the motivation to become the team they could have been for some time.
Even so, the Union are the better team. From front to back, Philly can put more talent on the pitch but they need their center stable to rediscover their respective top forms. Additionally, Kai Wagner and Ray Gaddis have a better high gear than either DC wide defender, and the Union should exploit that to push back Arriola and DC right back Leonardo Jara.
Keep an eye on the center of United’s midfield. Since Russell Canouse went down, that space has been opening up regularly, and the Union need to push balls through the middle when possible.
Philly and DC meet up in an Alumni Night showdown on August 24 at 7:30 p.m. ET on PHL17.