This is a must win game for D.C. United against Toronto FC. And so is the next one against the New England Revolution. After winning against the Colorado Rapids, the team can bounce back from a somewhat disappointing three game road stretch with a very good shot at the full 9 points. As we talked about the last time that United played Toronto FC, they are not a team to be taken lightly, even with their current point total. They do have talented players, and a desperate team can do things that you do not expect. Maybe its a vestige of the past few seasons, when United did not have much depth, but I do not think you can rest any players in this game just because it is against Toronto.
If United is able to get full points from the next few games, it would put them on 27 points going into the summer slowdown, in which United have five league games in two months and only one of those at home. After the summer slowdown, its a race to the finish with 11 games in August and September. If United can bank points now, they can spend those last few months battling for the top of the league and not battling to make the playoffs.
Branko Boskovic still to me seems to be a situational player, one who can be deployed when the circumstances fit his skillset. Against a crowded Toronto FC central midfield, I do not know if that will be the case and so I do not see him starting. Sure, we keep saying that Dwayne De Rosario needs a rest, but we also know that he is always up for games against his old teams. He will move back into center midfield. Whenever it does happen, I am excited to see how Nick DeLeon and Andy Najar combine as wingers. Danny Cruz does many things well, but whipping in crosses is not his strong suit. Once dangerous crosses are coming from both sides, United's offense could take even another step up.
The combination at striker will depend on who is healthy. I still believe that Maicon Santos and Chris Pontius are the starters, although the continued goal scoring of Hamdi Salihi means that a few bad games will land those players on the bench. One of the key results from the game against Colorado was that United showed they can play without Santos as a target striker, at least in certain situations. Should he get injured or start to tail off, I am still confident that United's other strikers can get the job done.
One of these days, a center back will be healthy enough to start and move Daniel Woolard back out to the left. Although, given his play there and the play of Chris Korb, is there a possibility that Woolard would only be moved by Emiliano Dudar? I doubt it, which is why I have Dejan Jakovic starting; should he not start, that talking point might get some actual traction.
As for the bench, I can see Branko Boskovic, Lewis Neal, Stephen King, Danny Cruz, Hamdi Salihi, Josh Wolff, and Joe Willis. What about you?
UPDATE: Based on info from the illustrious Soccer Insider, it looks like none of Santos, Pontius, or Russell will start. With all of that in mind, we may see something more like this: