While Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta have received much of the credit for D.C. United’s playoff spot push, Russell Canouse has quietly been one of the team’s most consistent and important pieces in the midfield.
Due to injuries, it took midfielder Russell Canouse over four months to get his first start for D.C. United this season. But when he stepped out on the field as a starter against the Colorado Rapids on July 28, it was clear that he had earned his spot in the starting XI.
United managed to beat the Rapids 2-1 that day and Canouse was awarded the Man of the Match honor for his efforts.
Canouse completed 40/46 of his passes and was all over the field making tackles and recovering loose balls. His hustle made all the difference for United that day.
Fast forward to September and Canouse has been in the starting lineup for D.C. United ever since and, while he’s been in the starting XI, the team has only lost two of its last 11 games.
Although he doesn’t get the goals or assists that grab headlines, the 23-year-old has helped anchor United’s midfield on both offensive and defensive ends.
His ability to pass the ball accurately under pressure and his skill with stifling opposing attacking players has made Canouse an invaluable defensive piece in the center of the pitch.
The midfielder put on a defensive clinic against New York City FC on September 8, where he completed 66 percent of his passes to go along with six tackles, six clearances and three interceptions in a 1-1 draw.
While Canouse has had several great games this year, his performance against Minnesota United on September 12 really stands out.
He completed nearly 98 percent of his passes, won eight tackles and recovered the ball 11 times in a 2-1 win against Minnesota. His hard work in the midfield has really helped United keep games close against some stiff competition.
Through the first 17 games of the season where Canouse was not a starter, United allowed 34 total goals with an average of two goals allowed per game. Since then, United has only allowed 14 goals with an average of 1.3 goals allowed per game.
While there are many other factors to take into consideration, the numbers reflect a significant defensive change when Canouse is in the starting XI. During the period where Canouse was on the bench, United allowed more than two goals in seven games during that span. Since then, United has only given up more than two goals in a game once. The difference is stark.
Canouse has been a major force for United in the midfield this season. While he’s been healthy, the 23-year-old has proven he can play exceptionally well against top teams in the MLS, including Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls. With two friendlies coming up in October, it also shouldn’t surprise anyone if Canouse gets called up for international duty with the United States national team.
Canouse is one of the most underrated defensive midfielders in Major League Soccer and it’s about time more people recognized his abilities.