This is familiar territory for D.C. United. Following a first leg loss in Mexico, the Black-and-Red need to beat Queretaro to advance in the CONCACAF Champions League, and they need to do so decisively. A two-goal win of any score other than 2-0 won't be good enough, while 2-0 will only send the game into a 30 minute tiebreaker. To win without going to overtime, United has to score at least three goals. If Queretaro scores just one goal at RFK tonight, the Black-and-Red will need four of their own.
Key player: Fabian Espindola
We shouldn't mince words: United's attack needs good performances from Espindola, and he was bad in Mexico last week. Part of that is the simple fact that it's going to take some time for him and Luciano Acosta to have a fluid understanding up front. The problem was what Espindola did when connecting with others, or when he had the chance to take the attack on his shoulders. Instead of getting in behind the defense or dragging opposing defenders out of position, Espindola was trying to force things that simply weren't there. A few shots from over 30 yards and a couple of hopeless through balls are not what the Black-and-Red expect out of their #10.
If United is going to overhaul a two-goal deficit against a team that knows a thing or two about killing off games, they're going to need Espindola to be much better in his decision-making. The understanding with Acosta will take games, and there's no good way to speed it up. Still, it's not like Espindola is unaware of how to work with Chris Rolfe, or Nick DeLeon. Marcelo Sarvas and Patrick Nyarko are players he surely knows from years in MLS. If players like Alvaro Saborio or Miguel Aguilar come in, Espindola should be able to work with them.
Moreover, Acosta's ability to draw attention should help Espindola quite a bit, and it reduces the amount of time the elder Argentine needs to go wide. Instead, United needs him to occupy defenders in the middle at least some of the time. United created chances in Mexico, but their best moments came from defenders. Unless United wants Steve Birnbaum to carry them into the semifinals, a forward like Espindola has to be making some appearances in traditional center forward positions, and he's got to make sound decisions on the ball rather than trying to win the game all by himself.
Location: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (Washington, DC)
Kick-off time: 8:00pm Eastern
Available TV: Fox Sports 2 (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.