DC United built themselves a pretty clear reputation last year as a team that knew how to hunker down and make your life difficult. They would grind out a 0-0 draw and be perfectly happy with it as the opposing team sauntered away in frustration. It was kind of their thing. They scored the second to least amount of goals of any playoff team, yet they still commanded fourth place and a trip to the playoffs.
This year has been no different, albeit with a bit more upside to have offensive relevance.
One of the main figures in maintaining that ‘good luck getting through us’ mentality is Marcelo Sarvas. The Brazilian journeyman midfielder has been all over the known world plying his trade in the midfield, but it is at DC United that the 34 year old has come into a role that looks to be his forte – disrupting any attack that dares try to get to his back line.
Sarvas joined this year from the Colorado Rapids and of all the acquisitions made in the off-season, this one cannot be overlooked in it’s importance. Mainly because the fit has been perfect despite the fact that Sarvas has never shown such a high degree of defensive aptitude.
Consider the amount of defensive actions that Sarvas puts up on any given day. On average, he completed 4.8 tackles and 4.2 interceptions – also known as nine defensive actions. Both of those numbers lead the team by quite a healthy margin. Even the solid back line of United cannot keep pace with Sarvas’ marauding in the middle of the field.
But in order to be the ‘rock’ at the back that Sarvas has become for United, he needs to do more than just bully the other team. There is also a need to reclaim the ball and turn the flow of play the other way – another thing he has stepped up since moving to the nation’s capital.
Sarvas leads DC United in pass completion with a solid 83%. He delivers 1.2 key passes per match. To make things even more interesting, no regular starter completes more dribbles per match than Sarvas. He is making himself out to be a Swiss army knife.
While he has not scored any goals or tallied any assists, history proves that those too, will come in time.
It may not be shaping up just yet, but DC has a way of turning things around and these past two matches have had that feel. The offense is starting to click and create chances and the defense continues to grit its teeth and deny opposing attacks. Right in the middle of these two potential success stories is Sarvas, who makes a living making others livings more difficult.