DC United, man. They’ve been living in or near the basement most of the season, but that basement was furnished with the knowledge that a) they got to float down the back half of the season on a yacht built of home games and b) Big Wayne was comin’.
Now the friendly run of matches at Audi Field has arrived, and DC is already in the final playoff spot if you organize the table by points per game. Wayne Rooney also touched down, and since doing so he has averaged about a goal or assist per game. Oh, and he upstaged Zlatan (!) with the all-but-certain play of the season and reminded Luciano Acosta that he’s actually a scary good attacker. Not bad for someone that looked as though he was falling off the Premier League pace at a frightening rate last year and, quite possibly, would not have the legs to dominate in Major League Soccer.
Look beneath the glitz of the new field and the star power of the best English transfer since Steven Gerrard, though, and there’s a lot more that should make DC United a fearsome opponent for any team aiming to make a run in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Russell Canouse has made six starts for DC since returning from injury, and his all-action style in central midfield provides freedom for a dangerous front four — including Rooney, Acosta, Yamil Asad, and Paul Arriola — to attack. Canouse is big, physical, and mobile, and he can stride forward to interchange positionally when DC is holding possession, or he can clog up the center when DC is holding off an opponent.
The showdown between the Union’s midfield and Canouse will be fascinating. Philly will seek to take advantage of Acosta’s lack of defensive instincts, and this means Canouse will need to be aware of Borek Dockal floating around when Ale Bedoya draws attention up the right. Junior Moreno sits alongside Canouse, and he assiduously helps Joseph Mora and Yamil Asad up the flank. This means Canouse can be stuck alone in the center when the Union overload one side of the pitch, and if he gets drawn too far from the center the Union will pounce.
Get ready for a matchup with huge playoff implications when Canouse, Rooney, and the rest of DC United welcome the Union to town on Wednesday, August 29 at 8PM EST.