The Whitecaps are desperate for a win, or at the very least a goal, and will face a true challenger when they square off against DC United, a much improved squad from 2013. We caught up with Ben Bromley of our sister SBNation blog Black and Red United to talk their major turnaround, young goalkeeper Bill Hamid, and whether or not this team can keep their mojo going through the end of the season.
Ben Bromley: The main reason behind the turnaround is the fact that, in this past offseason, the front office decided to acquire proven MLS veterans who have a track record of success. Between the 2012 season and the 2013 season, United kept the same team together, hoping that another year of experience would get them further than the Eastern Conference Finals.
However, MLS is improving too quickly for that strategy to work for any but the very best of teams. This season, however, they got players like Bobby Boswell, Eddie Johnson, Chris Rolfe, Fabian Espindola, Jeff Parke, and Sean Franklin to surround their young core. Putting those veterans around Perry Kitchen, Luis Silva, Nick DeLeon, and Bill Hamid has been the key to success.
86F: Bill Hamid recently made the shortlist for the MLS top 24 under 24. How is he finding success this season, and is he for real?
BB: Before this season, all of the old critiques of Bill Hamid were by and large true. He was an excellent shot stopper with freakish athleticism - a keeer who was prone to rash decisions, and would usually get one or two red cards per year. This year, however, he has really taken the next step: his positioning has become excellent, his distribution is good, he is now in charge of his box and his defenders at all times, and he has somehow become and even better shot stopper.
I haven't gone back and run the numbers, but I would guess that he is directly responsible for at least 10 for D.C. United's points just based on ridiculous saves that should have gone in and therefore dropped points. Tony Meola currently has him as tied for first in his MLS goalkeeper power rankings, right alongside Nick Rimando. He is clearly one of the best goalies in the league, and the best young American goalkeeper right now.
86F: Will DC United be in first place in the Eastern Conference when the regular season ends?
BB: Yes, they will. United are on a roll right now, and while the loss of Chris Rolfe for six weeks will hurt, I think they are well positioned to win the Eastern Conference. The partnership of Fabian Espindola and Luis Silva is on fire right now, the center back pairing of Bobby Boswell and Steve Birnbaum continues to grow stronger every week, and Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud have been (mostly) able to shut down opposing midfields.
Combine that with the fact that Sporting Kansas City's first three game losing streak of the season comes at exactly the right time and I don't think that anyone can catch them. D.C. United should be back in the CONCACAF Champions League again next year.
Prediction: 1-0 DC United