Today's the day for D.C. United, who will start their 2016 season off with a trip to Mexico to play Queretaro FC in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League tie. The Black-and-Red have never won a competitive game in Mexico in their history, and in fact have just one draw in six total trips there with two goals scored. Much like the rest of MLS, United has struggled to get anything going when facing Mexican clubs over the years.
However, today they don't actually have to get a win. A draw - particularly a draw in which United gets a goal or two - would be an excellent result, and even a one-goal loss (assuming DC gets a goal) will set them up with a good chance to advance in next week's second leg. They're also facing arguably the weakest Mexican opponent they've ever played in a competitive environment. Queretaro has lost four of their seven games this year, and their only wins have come against Liga MX's two worst teams. It's a great chance for United to make some history in unfriendly territory, but it's still going to be a very tough game to start the season off with.
Key player: Andrew Dykstra
In some ways, this season will start the same way it did last year. A shortened preseason thanks to CONCACAF's knack for great scheduling. A road game against a CCL opponent that isn't in its best form. And, to get to the point, Dykstra starting for United in goal thanks to an injury to Bill Hamid.
This time around, there are two crucial details that have changed. Hamid is out for months rather than last year's surprising omission, so Dykstra has spent the preseason focused on entering the season as the starter for months rather than possibly one or two games of spot duty. Dykstra's mind and body are in a much better place this time around, too. Last year against Alajuelense, Dykstra was playing his first competitive game in roughly 7 months after tearing his achilles tendon in 2014. Tonight, he's healthy and in more of a rhythm thanks to a full preseason spent training at 100% and playing games (as opposed to last year, where he was still finishing up rehab when camp convened).
So let's hope those different circumstances result in a different outcome. Last year, Dykstra was simply not prepared for such a high-stakes game, but the other choice was for Ben Olsen to start Travis Worra (who at the time was an undrafted rookie who had come out of a lower profile college program). This time around, Dykstra will have to avoid the mistakes that put United in deep trouble in the first half in Costa Rica. MLS teams don't get past Mexican opposition in the CCL by making mistakes, and for the Black-and-Red that will start in goal.
Location: Estadio Corregidora
Kick-off time: 8:00pm Eastern
Available TV: Fox Sports 1 (English), Univision Deportes (Spanish)
Available streaming: Fox Sports Go (English), Fox Soccer 2Go (English), Univision Deportes app (Spanish).
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
Our gamethread will be posted 1 hour before kickoff.