D.C. United is on Panama tonight, where Chad Ashton and company will take on Arabe Unido in United's opening match of the 2015-2016 Concacaf Champions League. Here are our predictions, give us yours in the comments!
In last year's ConcaChamps group stage, D.C. United were able to run the group despite putting out a side almost completely made of reserve players - around B&RU we even started calling it the Waterhouse XI. I'm not sure it'll happen that way again, though. Oh, Ben Olsen will still run out whatever 2015's version of the Waterhouse XI might be, chock full of reserves needing minutes and injured mainstays working back to full fitness. But I don't see the same 12-point haul that we saw last year. I think United score through Michael Farfan but concede one the other way when the Panamanians turn up the pressure. 1-1 as United earn a road point.
The first road match in the CONCAChamps takes us to Panama, where it will be hot and muggy for the Black & Red as they take on Arabe Unido. Luckily for us, DC is also hot and muggy so we shouldn't have to worry about tired legs and sapped energy like we did back in March at Alajuelense. With so many games coming up, Ben Olsen's definitely bringing the depth of the bench on the trip but is still hoping to leave with 3 points. I think we get it done. We get 2 goals from Opare and Coria and hold on for a 2-1 victory.
The funny thing about Arabe Unido? Well, aside from getting a headstart on goal differential with a win over Montego Bay, is that they're off to the best start in LFP history (albeit one that isn't that much older than MLS), and is unbeaten over their last 12 matches, which is second best stretch of games in LFP history also. For D.C., this game screams of taking a result, and with League games and potentially trying to fend off the New York Red Bulls for first place in the East in two weeks, there is bound to be a slip somewhere, and I think this is it. D.C. loses 2-1 to Arabe Unido, despite a goal from Chris Pontius.
We're not going to overdo it at this game. Reserves aplenty. Arabe is better than Tauro (5 points better, if you believe the Panamanian table). So, basically, DCU falls 1-0. The question is whether Olsen goes to Colon or not.
I'm not going to pretend that I've seen many Arabe Unido matches this season. I believe in DCU's strength in depth. I believe that's going to be enough to see out a 2-0 win for the Black and Red.
Arabe Unido is in winning form right now, but they're not exactly doing it in style. Three 1-0 wins, a 2-1 win, and a 1-1 draw sounds a little bit like the DCU teams of recent years, actually, and I think we'll see two teams focused on playing a controlled, cagey game. While I rate them as stronger than Waterhouse or Tauro were in last year's group stage, I don't actually think there's much special here beyond commitment and organization. United is going to have the best two center backs and the best two strikers on the field, and tense games tend to be won inside the penalty areas. United wins 1-0 thanks to a goal from Jairo Arrieta.
I'm also not going to pretend like I know anything, really, about Arabe Unido. But it looks like DCU has brought a mix of A-team and depth players down, and I think that's enough to at least get a point. I'll say the Black-and-Red play to an ugly 1-1 draw, lone goal from Pontius.
Sadly, D.C. United will not have Conor Shanosky to score goals off his face this year. Going down to Panama is always tough, especially when it is your first game of the CCL and it is with your reserves. I'll be hopeful, though, and go with a 1-1 draw, which will give United a leg up on the return.