Black and Red United asks the Blue Testament...
1. What happened? I know that D.C. United beat Sporting Kansas City in their last matchup, but I didn't expect it to send the whole team into a tailspin.
I expected losing streaks this season or at least dips in form but I never expected them to happen when they did. I expected poor form in May/Early June when Matt Besler and Graham Zusi were with the national team, Uri Rosell was injured, Chance Myers was out for the season and Ike Opara out as well. But it never got as catastrophic as our August and September was. I've been thoroughly confused to see our defense, who held decently after Myers went out, suddenly start to give up multiple goals a game. Besler and Sinovic have looked exhausted and Aurelien Collin has been nowhere near his normal form. I think a lot of the blame can be given to the transfer of Uri Rosell, who was able to provide defensive cover while also setting up plays from the back. Lawrence Olum had been good for a spot start but not as a full-time starter and Jorge Claros hasn't fully adjusted to Sporting KC yet. It's been troubling to say the least, but I don't think it's the sign of long term problems yet.
2. What do you think the solution is? Can Sporting get a couple of players and be back to their normal selves, or will they need a bigger overhaul?
I think getting Chance Myers back next year will be huge since he adds a huge defensive upgrade as well as veteran experience over Igor Juliao. Having the same back four that brought Sporting KC to the Supporters Shield 2nd place spot in 2012 and 2013 will be huge. I also think that if Jorge Claros adjusts to the midfield like Benny Feilhaber did the midfield is going to be in much better shape. The biggest overhaul I can think of would be if the rumors that Sporting KC are going to get Roger Espinoza back are true. He was great for Sporting KC, especially in 2012, and could really help the midfield both offensive and defensive. The thought of Espinoza playing behind Feilhaber is what I dream about at night. But I digress, since it's only a rumor. Getting the returners back from the long-term injuries will help a ton next year. For this year, just dance with who brought you and hope for some playoff magic.
3. Do you think that Peter Vermes ever gives up one of his jobs, either coach or GM? Do you think that he should concentrate on one, or are both still appropriate?
I doubt it. Vermes has done so well in both building up his youth system and implementing that into his squad that to take one of those links away from the other would be detrimental. Vermes has a certain style and a certain way he wants his players to play. By having him as both head coach and technical director, it allows him to cut out the middle man and build his own squads. I think in the past several seasons he has shown enough success that he can continue doing both, as well as his increasing abilities as a head coach. Looking back to 2010-2011, he has gotten much better at substitutes, lineups and overall in-game coaching. He's proven himself and I would not tamper with what has worked for the past few seasons.
The Blue Testament asks Black and Red United...
1) With a six point lead with four games to go, what's the mood of the team with the Eastern Conference, and a 2015-2016 CCL spot, seemingly in grasp?
The mood of the team and the fans is good, with the goal of winning the Eastern Conference close at hand. In addition to it being the goal of the season and and securing home field advantage until MLS Cup, it would also secure them another round of allocation money, which is necessary to continue the success that they have built this season.
2) With Perry Kitchen out of this match due to suspension, who steps in and how does this change DC's chances?
With Perry Kitchen out, either Lewis Neal or Jared Jeffrey will step in next to Davy Arnaud. Neal has a reputation for showing up in big games, scoring the goal that won the 2013 US Open Cup and the goal that clinched D.C. United's spot in the playoffs in 2012, and I think that means that he will get the start. Jeffrey is younger and more athletic than Neal, but his lack of experience will keep him on the bench.
United have not yet won a game without Perry Kitchen this season, but until recently they had also not won a game without Chris Rolfe. Obviously, Kitchen is one of the most important players on the team, but hopefully the play of Arnaud, Neal, and Bobby Boswell will make up for his absence.
3) What's the status of Chris Rolfe and if he doesn't play against Sporting KC, who will?
Chris Rolfe is still recovering from his broken arm and will not play against Sporting Kansas City. In the last game, Ben Olsen moved Sean Franklin to right midfield and shifted Nick DeLeon to left midfield, which is what I think he will do in this game as well. The addition of Franklin to the midfield would also help shore up the team's defensive midfield with the absence of Perry Kitchen. Sitting on the bench to give the team an offensive punch in the second half are Eddie Johnson, Chris Pontius, and David Estrada, all of whom can play on the left wing.