Will Pontius form half of the strike partnership this Wednesday?
Let me begin by saying that I could be totally wrong. This is the first midweek game of the season and the first time that Ben Olsen will have to consider resting players. I have heard all sorts of calls for various players to be sat down for this game, such as people saying that we should rest both starting forwards, saying that we should rest Dwayne De Rosario, and some that have said that we should rest no one for this game and come out with all guns blazing.
Personally, I lean towards the latter; while the game against the MetroStars will be tougher, D.C. United need to win this game. Besides the fact that it would finally get rid of the ridiculous lack of back to back wins, you cannot leave winnable points on the table. While the Montreal Impact are an expansion team, they are not a pushover; if the team runs out an opening round of the Open Cup level lineup (not that they will), we definitely could lose. With all of that being said, I do predict three non-injury changes. Which three? Find out below.
The first change that I predict is that Bill Hamid will return to goal. Olsen is definitely not going to make Hamid's first start back the game against the Metros, and so giving him a warmup game against Montreal seems like a good idea. If he doesn't appear tomorrow and is fully healthy, we may have Joe Willis as the starting keeper for the foreseeable future. Random aside: if Hamid doesn't regain his starting position one fully healthy, do you think there will be any subtle pressure from US Soccer? Juergen Klinsmann has proven he likes Hamid, and it isn't like there are a wealth of keepers behind Tim Howard. I highly doubt there would be, and obviously we would never know, but it is fun to theorize.
The other two changes I predict are Andy Najar for Danny Cruz and Chris Pontius for Hamdi Salihi. As we mentioned on episode four of Filibuster, Salihi may need to occupy the super sub role in which Charlie Davies found himself at the beginning of last season until he find his feet and stops pressing. Combined with the fact that you just have to get Chris Pontius on the field, I think that Salihi may just start on the bench. And while Danny Cruz has done nothing wrong, I think we all agree that Najar has a higher ceiling. Whether or not he has begun to put his slow start behind him (second year with a slow start in a row) will dictate if he starts.
Finally, there is the situation in defense. Emiliano Dudar ran on the side at practice yesterday, Dejan Jakovic did not contribute, and Ethan White is still a few weeks away, although he has started running. If Dudar cannot go, you will see Robbie Russell slid into the middle and Chris Korb start at right back. Please, no one else get injured. We don't want to see Andy Najar at right back or Kurt Morsink in defensive midfield.
Like I said, depending on Olsen's thinking, we could see Branko Boskovic in midfield and DeRo pushed up to forward. We could also see DeRo or Maicon Santos given a rest to prepare for New York and Josh Wolff starting up top. But after what happened the last time Olsen made wholesale changes, I think he will limit them and definitely will not change his style of play.
This lineup would make the subs be Joe Willis, Branko Boskovic, Danny Cruz, Hamdi Salihi, Josh Wolff, and Stephen King, with Kurt Morsink and Emiliano Dudar battling it out for the last spot based on Dudar's health. This is a match where anything could go, so let's see what you all have as your lineups.