WASHINGTON — After landing the creative attacking midfielder they’ve been looking for in Dwayne De Rosario, D.C. United made a slight tactical tweak to better accommodate their new weapon.
In the two games since acquiring the 33-year-old, DC have switched to a diamond midfield in place of the flat 4-4-2 that they have used in the past couple of seasons, with midfielder Clyde Simms (pictured above) playing in front of the back four, and De Rosario closer to the two starting forwards.
It’s a move that will allow De Rosario to influence the game offensively, while also allowing Simms to play to his strengths.
“I’m a little more comfortable in that role,” Simms said of the switch. “It’s the way I’ve played for DC for a long time now up until the last two years. Kind of let [De Rosario] do the offensive work, and I cover for him defensively. As long as we have that understanding it works well.”
Simms had always looked more at home in the midfield when tasked with a more defense-oriented role, and he particularly excelled playing behind former DC attacker Christian Gómez from 2005 to 2007.
In the past two seasons, he’s lacked that presence up front, giving the central midfield less of a punch. Simms’ strengths lie in maintaining possession and closing down passing lanes, not making the killer pass in the offensive third.
“It’s simplified Clyde’s role,” head coach Ben Olsen said. “When he’s playing behind an offensive guy, that’s when he’s at his best.”
With De Rosario in a more advanced position, it does require midfielders Andy Najar and Chris Pontius to shoulder more of the defensive responsibility than they had to before.
If those two don’t track back to provide defensive support, gaps could open up in the DC defense.
“We talked with them,” Simms said. “They have to pinch in and help me out in the middle. There’s a lot of room in there, a lot of space and they’ve been helping out.”
Olsen has faith that the young duo can adapt to embrace their new responsibilities.
“They’re young, they can do it,” he said. “I think the understanding’s coming along but still going to take some time.”
The system worked well in the club’s last outing against the New York Red Bulls. Simms had one of his best games of the season, playing an active role to keep the Red Bulls off the score sheet while freeing up room for De Rosario, who knocked in the game-winner in a 1-0 win.
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, college and youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark.