Last season, Lucho Acosta was a chance creation machine. He averaged two per game and picked up an assist every other game. For perspective, that’s Ilsinho’s pace this season, but over nearly 3000 minutes (the Brazilian is a shade under 750 minutes in 2019).
There is still a player with Acosta’s name on the jersey, but he produces far more exasperated gestures than assists now.
And DC United’s attack has suffered as a result. Ten fewer goals than Philadelphia, DC has added Angelo Rodriguez, another hugely talented (if also diminutive) Argentine attacker, and somehow lost their focus. Wayne Rooney still plays like a superstar, but his supporting cast has all but abandoned him. How else to explain that young homegrown Brenden Aaronson is averaging more Key Passes per game and a greater Expected Goals per game than Acosta?
The issues up front have been masked by a stingy defense that has far outperformed its expected numbers. AmericanSoccerAnalysis pegs DC’s Expected Goals Against this season near 35, but the club have only given up 26. That difference is enormous.
One reason that xGA number is so high is that DC gives up shots at a volume that makes them look more like a bad team than a competitor for the Eastern Conference crown. Only Vancouver gives up more shots per match, and no team is even close to DC United’s miniscule 6.6% of shots against that become goals. Maybe DC is just forcing a lot of guys to settle for bad shots… but only the 2016 LA Galaxy have been under 7.7% for a full season since in the past four years. In other words, DC are an outlier right now and there’s a good chance that won’t list for the rest of the season.
On Saturday, the Union will look to bring that number up by hitting their hosts in transition. Russell Canouse and Junior Moreno are extremely good at breaking up play in the center, but when they can’t get their bearings the duo becomes far effective. Philly will hope to keep Marco Fabian high and advance quickly after winning the ball off Acosta, Rooney, and Rodriguez.
The Union head south on Sunday, August 4 for a 7:30 p.m. ET showdown with DC United on Fox Sports 1.