There are plenty of questions about who will start for D.C. United vs. the Houston Dynamo in the second leg of the 2012 MLS Eastern Conference Finals at RFK Stadium on Sunday at 4:00 PM. We don't yet know if Chris Pontius or Dwayne De Rosario will be available to try to get back the two goals that United needs to even up the series with the Dynamo. Nor do we know if Brandon McDonald or Marcelo Saragosa will be available to help keep Houston from adding to its aggregate advantage.
There is one thing we know for sure though. Lionard Pajoy will be in the starting lineup for D.C.
Since arriving in D.C. in a trade for Danny Cruz (which is now looking like a steal for Untied, by the way), Pajoy has started all 15 matches that United has played. He has three goals in a United jersey, but has also done much more than that to help the team win. Pajoy is known for throwing his body around to win and keep possession while also performing more defensive work than you see from a typical forward.
Pajoy hasn't scored a goal yet in the playoffs, but his goal against the Chicago Fire in the last week of the season clinched United's second place finish in the East, and he played a role in both of the playoff goals scored by the team. Pajoy's vision helped him find Robbie Russell across the box to slot in Nick DeLeon for the winning goal against the New York Red Bulls. And he then came just an inch from scoring a goal in Houston as his shot beat Tally Hall but struck the post before the rebound was finished by DeLeon.
Throughout the playoffs so far, Pajoy has been finding success making runs behind the opposing back line. His speed was clearly evident against the Red Bulls, and then again on Sunday in Houston. Pajoy had no trouble finding space around and behind the much slower Bobby Boswell and Andre Hainault, and that space will be even more prevalent on the wider field at RFK.
We don't know who will be partnering with him towards the top of United's formation. It could be Branko Boskovic again, although the Montenegrin hasn't been very effective so far and could use a break. It could also be De Rosario if Olsen chooses to go for it from the start. Or it could even be Hamdi Salihi if Olsen really wants to mix things up.
We don't know who else will be up top, but we know Pajoy will be there. Doing his usual thing. And probably giving United the best chance to win.