D.C. United is back in the CONCACAF Champions League, and they'll start group stage play with what appears to be the most difficult game of the round: On the road against Panamanian power Arabe Unido. La Furia Colonense is currently leading the group after a 3-0 win over Montego Bay United, and they're also unbeaten in Panamanian league play thanks in part to a defense that has conceded just twice in 5 games.
Still, United is the group favorite and - based on MLS going unbeaten thus far in the tournament - anything less than a draw would have to be considered a disappointment. Panamanian clubs have seen a lot of their national team regulars depart for MLS and other leagues, and Arabe's squad is on the young side. What all of this may add up to is a more tense game where both teams are looking to avoid mistakes at the back.
D.C. United Projected Starting 11: Based on various photos online, Instagram posts, Snapchattery, and all other modern methods to keep one's ear to the ground, I think we have a grip on most of United's traveling squad. Based on that, I expect to see United start this game in a 442 featuring Andrew Dykstra in goal behind a back four of Jalen Robinson, Steve Birnbaum, Kofi Opare, and Luke Mishu. In the midfield, look for Miguel Aguilar on the right, Jared Jeffrey and Markus Halsti in the middle, and Chris Pontius on the left. Up front, Conor Doyle and Jairo Arrieta will be the forward duo.
Off the bench, I think we can bank on seeing Michael Farfan and Facundo Coria, probably replacing Halsti and Pontius respectively. The last sub is harder to predict. We could see Taylor Kemp - who apparently made the trip - or someone like Perry Kitchen (whose status is more of a mystery).
Elsewhere, Steve Goff's detailed piece sorts of much of the likely gameday squad and ends with Ben Olsen discussing how he'll watch the game (he's suspended after being ejected from March's second leg against Alajuelense). MLSsoccer's preview from Pablo Maurer notes the importance of guys like Chris Pontius and Andrew Dykstra.
What are you drinking: It has been a deeply irritating day on an Office Space level, so bourbon. Evan Williams Single Barrel.
Prediction: I think United's ability to hold teams to low-percentage efforts will be big tonight, as La Furia Colonense can be impatient going forward. As such, I expect to see plenty of rushed shots and forced passes end up blocked or picked off by Dykstra, but relatively few dangerous attacks. United should be able to create some danger of their own, and I think they win this game 1-0 thanks to a goal from Arrieta early in the second half.
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