A few weeks ago, D.C. United hosted a tired Montreal Impact. An aggressive, smart performance saw the Impact gassed early, and goals just before and just after halftime made the visitors cry uncle (or whatever it is you do in Canada). It was about as straightforward as wins come in MLS.
Well guess what? Now it's United going to Montreal on short rest while the hosts have been kicking back and getting healthy. Unlike that earlier game, the playoffs are looming on the horizon for both teams. A win for United would leave the Impact 7 points out with only 6 games to play. Montreal is barely hanging on, but at the same time a win for them - and they win most of the time at Stade Saputo - would mean the Impact are just 1 point out of a postseason berth.
In other words, this one's big.
Game time: 4:00 PM
TV: Direct Kick only
Projected starting lineup: A last-second bit of news: Nick DeLeon has stayed behind at the hotel with an illness. Normally you'd hope to see Ben Olsen reward the fine mid-week performance by naming an unchanged side, but with another Wednesday game - and one more after that on the weekend - a rotation might be more reasonable.
That said, I don't expect too many changes with the playoff implications here. Look for Bill Hamid in goal, Andy Najar bombing forward from right back, a center back pairing of Brandon McDonald and Dejan Jakovic, and Chris Korb at left back. Chris Pontius will likely be stationed at right midfield, with Perry Kitchen and Marcelo Saragosa lining up as dual destroyers in central midfield. Branko Boskovic, returning from suspension, should get the nod at left midfield with DeLeon sick and Lewis Neal just coming off an injury himself. Up top, 2011 MVP Dwayne De Rosario will likely be joined by Lionard Pajoy.
Prediction: Saputo is a tough place to play, and we just lost a winger against a team that's stronger centrally than down the flank. United is better than the Impact, but I'm thinking a 1-1 draw still ends Montreal's playoff hopes.
What are you drinking? Now: Coffee. At gametime: Guinness.
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