Today we make the awkward transition from one of our most important matches of the season to our least. Following the letdown yesterday against the New England Revolution, DC United will now turn its attention to an international friendly on Saturday against Everton FC. To get us prepared, we exchanged questions with Royal Blue Mersey, SB Nation's Everton blog.
B&RU: What's the latest on Tim Howard? Is he or is he not playing?
RBM: The answer is no one knows for certain, but my guess is that he isn't going to play. Tim had yet to return to training before the Union match on Wednesday, and my guess is Moyes will see no need to trot him out against D.C United with only two days of training, assuming he actually does train. When I had the chance to interview Howard yesterday he was noncommittal about everything, so the only way I see it happening is if Moyes puts him out there for a half as a nod the U.S.
B&RU: Who are the new acquisitions on Everton's roster that you're most looking forward to seeing?
RBM: As usual for Everton, we have almost no new acquisitions this summer. For the past several years, the club has operated with a slight loss each year, so David Moyes has to sell players to buy players. This summer we have seen young forward James Vaughn leave for 2 million pounds, but that is not enough to bring in the type of signing Everton needs. The only addition is youngster Eric Dier who is hyped by many to be the next English star.He is only 17 and on loan, so any contribution he makes this season is probably going to be minimal
B&RU: How do you expect Everton to perform this upcoming season? What players need to step up and have a big impact?
RBM: After last season's game of high expectations followed by a depressing reality, I expect Everton to challenge for a European position and finish 7th or 8th this season. It used to be the EPL had the top 4 teams secure Champions League berths, and then Everton would have to compete for 5th place with Tottenham and Aston Villa on a regular basis, with an occasional challenger thrown into the mix. Now though with all the money other teams can spend, 7th is the appropriate spot for Everton to finish based on resources, anything above that is excellent, and below that is just disappointment.
B&RU: Please give us a prediction for the team's starting lineup.
RBM: With such a short turnaround from Wednesday's match, I feel that Moyes will give a run out to some of the younger players for extended time, but it is possible he may try to push the likely opening match starters to improve their fitness. Osman and Fellaini both missed Wednesday's gmae with slight knocks from training, so it wouldn't shock me if they get a run here since they are relatively fresh. Look for Moyes to also play Seamus Coleman at right back as he did against the Union in the first half. Coleman burst on to the scene last year as a right midfielder, but Moyes has expressed his desire for Coleman to become a right-footed version of Leighton Baines who has terrorized defenses as he galavants down the flank from his left-back position. (Beckford; Cahill; Osman-Fellaini-Neville-Arteta; Baines-Distin-Jags-Coleman; Mucha)
RBM: For our readers outside of the U.S. could you give us a little bit of history about D.C. United and their current season?
B&RU: History is something United has plenty of. They dominated MLS when it first started in the late 1990s by being the best team in the league at identifying foreign talent and putting them in the right positions. They played a possession-oriented attacking style and racked up the trophies. United's 12 trophies are the most of any MLS club. Coming back to 2011 though, the league has changed. United no longer has an advantage in the foreign scouting department, and now actually has the most Americanized team in the league. Their new strategy involves finding talented young domestic players and developing them. United is currently 5th in the MLS Eastern Conference, putting them roughly in the middle of the pack for the league overall.
RBM: Who are the players from D.C. United that will give Everton the biggest problems?
B&RU: United has two of the most talented attacking wingers in the league. Chris Pontius will start on the left and use his speed and aggression to take on defenders. Andy Najar is the reigning MLS Rookie of the Year and will start on the right. He's a good crosser and also D.C.'s most creative player.
RBM: If D.C. United is to get anything from this game who is going to have to step up and deliver?
B&RU: United's backline is very young and will need to stay compact defensively to stay in this game. Brandon McDonald was acquired just a few weeks ago to lead the defense from a central spot and has performed well since arriving. He'll need to keep the defensive unit together to limit Everton to just taking outside shots, which goalkeeper Bill Hamid does a good job of saving.
RBM: What are you as a fan looking for out of Saturday's game against D.C. United?
B&RU: I'm hoping to not get embarrassed, but I'm not looking for much else. We as fans have come to realize that friendlies give no indication of a team's actual ability to get results. Last year, D.C. United defeated AC Milan 3-2 in a friendly, but still finished with the worst record in the league.
RBM: With Charlie Davies and his progress this season, how important of a match is this for him to truly measure his progress since his accident in 2009?
B&RU: I do think this is a big match for Davies. He started this season on a tear, but has since faded and now hasn't scored a goal in several weeks. For Davies to fulfill his goal of ultimately getting back to Europe, he needs to step up and make an impact in big games. He's also probably the only player on our team with the ability to create something out of nothing or strike unexpectedly on a counter attack. Davies holds our best chance of winning.
RBM: Are there any younger players on the team that could use this game as a chance to show their talents for a move to Europe in the future?
B&RU: Hamid and Najar are each graduates of the D.C. United Academy, and each will be playing overseas in the future. Hamid idolizes Tim Howard, and many see him as a potential National Team player down the road. He'll be looking to impress on Saturday night. Najar seems to give maximum effort no matter the circumstances, and this game will be no different for him. As fans, we're just hoping to have Najar for at least another year or two.