Thanks to a game Saturday night and a few injuries here and there, Queretaro will face D.C. United with some tricky questions to sort out. Los Gallos Blancos made the 3 hour drive down to Morelia on the weekend and worked very hard before coughing up a 90th minute goal to draw 1-1. Even after rotating most of his starters, Victor Manuel Vucetich will have four first-choice players trying to bounce back after playing at least an hour against las Monarcas.
There is a chance that Vucetich changes his formation (we'll get into that below), but most likely he will stick with the 4231 and look for the one goal will in all likelihood see his team through.
Let's start in goal, where Tiago Volpi - the main reason United doesn't have at least one away goal - is probably going to play. However, it's worth noting that he needed significant time with trainers during Saturday's game. In the process of making an awkward save, Volpi managed to strike his right knee with the studs of his left shoe, causing a pretty significant welt and a small gash. Volpi was still able to leap and kick at full strength against Morelia, but he was shown wincing after several jumps. If he only got through that game on adrenaline, look for veteran Edgar Hernandez to be preferred over Gil Alcala as Volpi's replacement.
There's also an injury concern at right back, where George Corral hobbled off against United clearly holding his hamstring. Corral didn't play any part against Morelia, and it seems doubtful that he'll be fit for this game. Youngster Jimmy Gomez did a decent job on the weekend, and is the only natural choice Vucetich appears to have. The other option is to use Juan Forlin on the right, as was done when Corral came out.
If Forlin - a natural center back - plays on the right, Vucetich will likely start Yasser Corona alongside Miguel Martinez. That's favorable for United, as both Martinez and Corona are ticking time bombs when it comes to temperament and decision-making. Of course, Forlin somehow avoided bookings for two separate inexplicable and dangerous tackles from behind against Morelia (he was eventually booked for something else), so maybe it's just something Queretaro is used to. On the left, Jonathan Bornstein didn't play on the weekend and seems like a lock to start.
In central midfield, Nery Dominguez was rested over the weekend and seems sure to start tonight. It's the other spot alongside him where questions arise. Marco Jimenez has been first choice lately, but at 34 it's hard to see him going the full 90 for the fourth time since last Friday's game against Tigres. Luis Miguel Noriega would be a reasonable rotation option, but he had an awkward landing in the late stages against Morelia and was stretchered off once before re-entering and then going down again in stoppage time. This may have been pure time-wasting, but at the time of his initial injury it would have been very risky. Mario Osuna has caps for Mexico but has fallen out of favor of late, yet Vucetich may have to go with his most rested, healthy option.
Sinha will probably start as the attacking midfielder, and that's a sign of intent. Resting the 39 year old until the 61st minute on the weekend points to Vucetich looking to use his playmaker in an effort to get past United by scoring the killer away goal. As we saw on Queretaro's second goal at Estadio Corregidora, you give Sinha a window to pass without pressure at your own risk.
The wingers and forward are an interlocking puzzle right now due to Emanuel "Tito" Villa's injury. Villa did travel...
...but it's not like 33 year olds just bounce back from the kind of muscle strain that saw him sub off after half an hour in the first leg. If Villa can't start, Vucetich will probably choose Edgar Benitez - who was playing up front when he scored the second goal last week - over Carlos Fierro, at least from the start. However, if Benitez is up front, then Angel Sepulveda has to come over to the left. He's comfortable on either flank, but moving him to left wing means finding someone else to play on the right.
Yerson Candelo springs to mind after his goal in the first leg, but there's a reason Vucetich doesn't often start the unpredictable Colombian winger. Candelo is a risk-taker, and while Queretaro would love to score a road goal, the fact is that Candelo still counts as a roll of the dice as a starter. Carlos Fierro might be the better choice from Queretaro's perspective, though perhaps the best option would be to play Sepulveda and Benitez in their normal spots while playing Fierro up front.
Off the bench, Candelo will probably get in as a speed option, and if either Jimenez or Noriega starts I'd expect one to be subbed off for fresh legs. I'd also keep an eye on Vucetich changing formation if the game is tense in the latter stages. He's played a 4321 recently on the road, and shifted into a very narrow 4411 in an effort to prevent Morelia's late goal (with Osuna and Luis Gil playing as "wide" midfielders). Sepulveda might come off in that circumstance, as he's more of a winger and also has put in a lot of minutes lately. Fierro is capable of playing alongside Sinha if the choice is to go to 4321, and Noriega can also play that higher role as well.
If United gets to 2-0 or even 3-0, we might see Luis Madrigal come in up front for one of the midfielders. Madrigal is a prototypical target man, and though he doesn't get much playing time he's pretty good at what target forwards do (note his headed assist on Queretaro's goal Saturday). Queretaro, more than pretty much any Liga MX team that I've seen this season, is willing to go direct. If they need to lump it forward, Madrigal is the only option on the roster that makes any real sense.