Tonight will provide D.C. United with one of the toughest challenges they'll see in 2015. It's a combination of things: The Portland Timbers are desperate for a win right now, seeing as how they're in last place in the West. United is badly short-handed when it comes to attacking options, and just played on turf in New England this past weekend. Oh, and there's another game on Saturday against a fully-rested opponent. Thanks MLS.
On the other hand, the Timbers are on a two-game losing streak. They won't have Diego Valeri, and few teams in MLS are more reliant on one player as PTFC is on their Argentine playmaker. They're also coming off of a Saturday road game against an Eastern Conference team (a match they fruitlessly chased for 85 minutes after going behind early). If there's a time to be playing them, it's tonight.
D.C. United Projected Starting 11: Sadly there aren't that many options here. Bill Hamid will be in goal, and the back four is probably going to be Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Kofi Opare, and Chris Korb (though Steve Birnbaum may get a start here for Opare, and Taylor Kemp may be called upon at left back instead of Korb). In the midfield, I think we'll see Miguel Aguilar and Chris Pontius on the flanks, while Perry Kitchen will be partnered by Markus Halsti. Up top, it'll be Conor Doyle and Jairo Arrieta.
Off the bench, it seems safe to predict that Facundo Coria will get 30+ minutes to spice up United's attack. It's hard to say who else might get in, especially if Collin Martin - who only recently returned to training - is not quite ready for game action yet. If Korb starts, I'm pretty certain we'll see Kemp come on as a sub again (though left midfield is as much a possibility as left back in that situation). As for the last sub...it's hard to say, because the rest of the healthy players are center backs or players that haven't yet appeared for United in 2015. If the game is essentially decided one way or the other, we could see someone like Jared Jeffrey come on for Perry Kitchen. Hopefully Martin is ready to play at least a cameo role in the final 10 minutes.
Match previews: Around here, it's been a busy couple of days. Ben tried to sort out United's depleted lineup, while I did the same with a healthier Timbers side. We also exchanged questions with Stumptown Footy, and provided our scattered attempts at predicting the outcome. Finally, our preview focuses on the importance of Halsti.
Elsewhere, here's Stumptown Footy's preview, while Steve Goff's piece for the Washington Post spells out just how shorthanded United will be tonight. MLSsoccer.com's preview tells us that the referee will be Chris Penso.
What are you drinking: I'm thinking of making myself a cup of coffee and adding some Van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka. This could become some other kind of mixed drink though, depending on whether I want a hot coffee after a muggy day.
Prediction: I think the lack of rest for both teams plays into United's favor. Despite fielding what will look an awful lot like a B-team out of necessity, I think United will snatch a first-half goal before running out of gas. At that point Portland will take over, but I don't think they'll have the energy to fully overhaul the deficit. In the end, both teams will have to accept a 1-1 draw.
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