Another day, another game against the top tier of MLS. D.C. United takes on FC Dallas this Friday, in a matchup of teams that are both getting key players back from Olympic qualifying today. Continued progress are the buzzwords, as United hopes to prove that they are more like the team that shut down Vancouver Whitecaps and not the team that got pummeled by LA Galaxy.
The lineup for this game comes down to Olsen's opinion on the continuing debate we have been having for the past few months: what is Dwayne De Rosario's best position for this team? If De Rosario starts in the midfield, then one of Chris Pontius, Maicon Santos, or Josh Wolff will start as Salihi's strike partner. If De Rosario starts in a more advanced role, that means that either Branko Boskovic or Stephen King will step in underneath. Follow me down the rabbit hole for my projected starting XI.
I don't see either Perry Kitchen or Bill Hamid starting in this game, having just played three matches in five days and missing out on qualifying for the Olympics in a heartbreaking way, even with Goff reporting that Kitchen was back in training today. Of course, if Marcelo Saragosa cannot go (he is reported as being absent from training today), Kitchen would be pushed back into the starting XI. Also, between Hamid's ankle injury and Joe Willis' current form, there is no need to rush Hamid back. Olsen has shown that practice form does matter to him, so hopefully the next time we see Perry Kitchen on the field it will mean that he has beaten out Saragosa, as he should.
Getting to the players that will definitely be on the field, I think that Ben Olsen wants to have De Rosario in a more advanced role. Therefore, I am going to predict that he is back there alongside Hamdi Salihi after being dropped into the midfield against Vancouver. However, all of these shifts require Olsen to trust Branko Boskovic to occupy that central creative role and be fit enough for a full 90 minutes, which hasn't happened yet. This one could go either way, but I am going to keep predicting Boskovic until the cows come home (but I won't let them near Salihi).
However, if DeRo is still in the midfield, I hope against hope that we get a combination of Chris Pontius and Josh Wolff as Salihi's strike partner, and not the continued Maicon Ngwenya Santos experiment. 60-70 minutes of Chris Pontius and then 20-30 of Josh Wolff would be my ideal combination in that situation.
The only other question about the lineup is whether Nick DeLeon or Chris Pontius will start. Obviously if the coaching staff takes my suggestion above, then they won't have that problem, but most people see Pontius as a wide midfielder. I think Olsen will stay with the hot hand and make Pontius really earn his way back into the starting XI.