The Seattle Sounders will play away from home for the first time away from home this season, their frustrating 1-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes a week behind them. DC United is coming off their first win of the season, an eyebrow-raising 4-1 thumping of FC Dallas that came a bit out of nowhere given their poor start to the campaign. It was the first sign they've given this season that the promise many saw in them could well be there, and with the injury struggles continuing to mount for the Sounders a promising start to Seattle's season is at legitimate risk of coming off the rails just a bit.
DC United's key figure is clearly Dwayne DeRosario, but despite starting all four games so far this season he has yet to score. That's not likely going to continue, but as we've seen with Fredy Montero in Seattle, DeRo's other attributes in the attack-and to some extent his mere presence-have opened up opportunities for his teammates. United didn't do much to take advantage of those opportunities earlier in the season, but everything came together against FC Dallas; 4 or DC's 5 goals came in that game, and while that's certainly not the kind of impact you'd expect from them week-in and week-out, it's at the very least proof of concept.
While DeRosario is likely to have a shadow that looks suspiciously like Osvaldo Alonso for the majority of the evening, DC United will pose a serious threat on the counter. Defending counter-attacks is something the Sounders appear to have improved upon this season, but it has historically been a source of great frustration. Against a team as dangerous in transition as United, Seattle must make sure to keep their old habits in check.
Defensively, DC is far from an elite unit but they're at the very least league-average (and probably above.) United also like to keep the game narrow, which has posed some of their opponents some difficulty. Given the tendency of Sounders wingers to cut inside this is not inherently a major problem, but if Fredy Montero is crowded out and loses a significant amount of the space in which he likes to operate it could make things very difficult for Seattle. If that ends up being the case, the play of Alvaro Fernandez and whichever Sounder makes the start on the right will be crucial.
As has been the case through the first three games, injuries will be a major story for Seattle against DC United. Brad Evans should be available for the game, but Adam Johansson, Eddie Johnson and Mauro Rosales remain listed as questionable. New to the injury list is center back Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, which could lead to Jeff Parke making a return to the starting XI. It would not be a major surprise to see all those listed as questionable in the 18, but it would be a bit of a shock for any of them to see significant minutes.
Last season, the Sounders were very much a rhythm kind of team and though this is a new year there isn't much reason to expect things to be different this year. While a win should nominally be the expectation for this team every time out, a point in this game would be far from a bad result. But with what looks like a tricky bit of schedule ahead for the Sounders, a loss would not set the kind of tone the team would have been hoping for coming into the season. Slow starts have been an issue for Seattle in the last two seasons, and despite two impressive wins to kick things off they aren't quite finished getting out of the gates yet. How this one plays out could be very important in terms of setting the tone for the first third of the season.