The biggest test of D.C. United’s young season comes this weekend, when the team hosts high-flying FC Dallas. Coming into the match with an MLS-best 5-1-1 record, the Hoops are much improved under new coach Oscar Pareja. D.C. United also appears to be significantly better this year, entering the match with a 2-2-2 record after last season’s abysmal 3-24-7 mark. Here are some key matchups to watch Saturday at RFK Stadium.
Matt Hedges vs. Eddie Johnson
Current national team striker Johnson faces likely future national team defender Hedges, who has grown into one of the top young center backs in the league. The 6-foot-4 Hedges is an imposing opponent for Johnson, who is still without a goal for D.C. United in six matches.
Mauro Diaz vs. Perry Kitchen
Diaz, the MLS player of the month for March, conducts FC Dallas’ offense with a devastating combination of quickness, skill, passing and vision. Kitchen will be the main obstacle between Diaz and United’s back line, and the 22-year-old holding midfielder needs a big performance on Saturday.
Fabian Castillo vs. Sean Franklin
Castillo’s easily one of the fastest players in MLS, and his speed and skill combination is a handful for the right side of any team’s defense. Franklin will be the main man tasked with controlling the 21-year-old Colombian, but he might need a bit of help from right midfielder Nick DeLeon as well.
Michel vs. United’s defense
FC Dallas is one of the league’s best teams on set pieces, and Michel’s service from free kicks and corner kicks is one of the biggest reasons why. United’s defense will have to be alert on every free kick and corner kick opportunity, or FC Dallas will likely take advantage.