The CONCACAF Champions League opens tonight for D.C. United with a visit to Arabe Unido. Panama's strongest club over the past few years, Arabe is also currently leading Group H in this tournament thanks to a 3-0 home win over Jamaica's Montego Bay United. Sergio Guzman's side is solid, organized, and has a bit of flair going forward as well. However, tonight we're more likely to see their pragmatic side due to the importance of this game and the fact that United is still favored to win the group.
Key player: Jairo Arrieta
Arrieta should be the best striker on the field tonight, and certainly the most experienced in CONCACAF play (both at the club and international level). That's nice for United, but for Arrieta it means he has to shoulder a burden tonight: The team is relying on him to deliver a good performance. Whether that means a goal or two, or some assists - Arrieta's passing has been underrated all year - or some good hold-up play, the Black-and-Red are going to be leaning on Arrieta's qualities and his experience tonight.
Key question: Can the B+ team get it done again on the road?
Back in June, United's supposed B team went on the road and got wins in the Open Cup at Pittsburgh and then in MLS at Chicago. In both cases, they limited their opponents to few chances on offense while still creating some danger (against the Fire, that latter bit was a less common sight). This time, they're a bit stronger due to several players returning from injury. Chris Pontius wasn't involved in either of those games, for example, and neither was Michael Farfan. Those two are going to see significant minutes tonight as they build their way back to fitness, which means the "B team" is stronger this time around.
They're going to need to be, because Arabe Unido is well aware of how much pressure is on them for this game. In the current CCL structure, going through without taking the full 6 points from your 2 home games is a highly difficult thing to pull off. There's a lot of pressure here, because a home draw leaves Arabe either a) needing to avoid defeat at RFK or b) hoping for assistance from Montego Bay United, who frankly looked like they're going to lose all four games in this group last week.
This is most likely the biggest game in Group H, in the other words, and for the home team it's a virtual must-win. United is going to need the injury returnees to show at least some glimpses of their full ability, but they'll also need players like Kofi Opare, Conor Doyle, and Miguel Aguilar - second-choice players who have still seen plenty of minutes - to come up big. A win tonight wouldn't guarantee anything as far as who advances to the quarterfinals, but it would make United the overwhelming favorite to have some CCL dates this coming spring.
Match date/time: Wednesday 8/19, 8:00pm Eastern
Venue: Estadio Maracana (Panama City, Panama)
TV: Fox Soccer Plus (English), Univision Deportes (Spanish)
Online: Fox Soccer 2Go (English), Univision Deportes En Vivo (Spanish)
Our gamethread will be up an hour before kickoff.
Please do not post links to illegal streams. We can and will ban you from B&RU.