With our new acquisitions now fully acclimatized, and several players returning from injury, the lineup that DC United will use tomorrow night will be much stronger than the lineup that started the season 1-8.
United's 4-0 victory over Portsmouth FC was quite easily the best offensive production the team has had all season. Sure, some might write it off as just taking advantage of a weak and tired opponent. But United has faced USL and PDL opponents in exhibition matches this season too, and never before in 2010 has the team been so dominant. Pablo Hernandez and Branko Boskovic each had an assist on one of Danny Allsopp's three goals, and the trio combined well throughout the entire match.
So was that the start of something good? Or just a temporary lapse from an awful season?
The headline is a clue into my thoughts. I think that the United lineup that you'll see tomorrow night will be the best one that they've put on the field in 2010. The defense has been consistently solid for some time now. So if it's true that the offense is finally clicking, we might have something going here.
For once, I think I have a pretty good sense of who will be in that starting lineup against Real Salt Lake tomorrow night. Read on to see if you agree.
Troy Perkins will start in net, and the backline isn't hard to figure out either. The news that Dejan Jakovic, Devon McTavish, and Marc Burch all traveled to Utah gives me the sense that the same group that shut out the Seattle Sounders for 89 minutes will also start tomorrow night. I don't think the team will be ready to give Burch his first start of the season yet, so that means McTavish, Jakovic, Julius James, and Jordan Graye will all see action.
But it's the midfield that I think is suddenly our greatest strength. Could I go so far as to say it might be one of the best in the league? Andy Najar and Clyde Simms have been representing well for the midfield all season, but I think we'll see two new additions to the starting lineup this week: Branko of course, and Santino Quaranta.
With Chris Pontius still working his way back (although he did travel with the team, so he is an option), Quaranta lined up as a winger in both the Harrisburg and Portsmouth matches. His early assist to Boskovic set the tone on Wednesday night, and the team hasn't looked back since. Look for Quaranta to take Pontius's spot on the left, and probably be more productive than the sophomore has been lately.
As for the forwards? Yeah you don't mess with a pairing that scored four goals just a week ago. Danny Allsopp and Pablo Hernandez will start together up top. I guarantee it. So here's how I think United will line up:
I guess there's one thing that could mess with the lineup though. If you've been following along with Barry Rice's twitter feed as much as I have, then you know that he was called in today as a last minute addition. Dude was chilling in Georgetown with injured teammates Rodney Wallace, Brandon Barklage, and Andrew Quinn, and then was packing and on his way to the airport less than an hour later. This sort of thing doesn't happen without good reason. The likeliest reason would be a setback for Jakovic or Burch. My hope though is that Carey Talley just woke up with a headache that the training staff mistook for concussion symptoms.
If this match were anywhere but Rio Tinto, I might be tempted to guarantee a win. But given our historical struggles in Salt Lake City, I see this as being more of a potential draw.