D.C. United got some time in Florida, came back, helped release their 2016 home jersey, got back down to Florida, and will begin ramping up their 2016 campaign tonight with a friendly against the NASL's Tampa Bay Rowdies. The game in the first of three that D.C. will play in Florida before going to Mexico a week from tomorrow to play Liga MX side Queretaro in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. Coincidentally, Queretaro play Cruz Azul an hour before D.C. kicks off, so if you find yourself with some free time and want to scout the competition, avail yourself as you'd like on Univision Deportes.
Key player: Luciano Acosta
Gets to RFK on Wednesday, and we've been told by the team that he will play in his first game with his new teammates today. No pressure, right?
It should be noted that conditioning probably should not be a problem for 'La Joya'; he had been getting playing time with Estudiantes at the end of 2015 and saw second half substitution minutes for Boca Juniors in their preseason matches as recently as two and a half weeks ago; the question becomes one of integration. How is he going to work with Marcelo Sarvas and/or Markus Halsti in the middle of the field, how quick will Patrick Nyarko, Nick DeLeon or Lamar Neagle be on the wings with Acosta, how will Acosta deal with his first North American contact, how will Fabian Espindola get 'Chino' on board with the club. Above all, and it can't be stressed enough:
This will likely be a work in progress, and almost nothing can (or should) be taken out of what we see here, other than maybe a slim idea of what the mean of Acosta in the lineup can be.
With Goff speculating that Ben Olsen will play his regulars for 60-75 minutes in the first two friendlies before resting them in the third game, there are some tea leaves that potentially could be read. Sarvas is a presence that D.C. lacked once Davy Arnaud went out of the lineup last August to concussion issues, and they are going to need something like that in the middle of the field. How he works with Halsti (at this point presumably, the de facto central defensive midfielder) will be of note as they will have to handle higher skilled midfielders in Queretaro, and at altitude to boot.
Location: Al Lang Stadium (St. Petersburg, FL)
Kick-off time: 7:00pm Eastern
Available TV: None
Available streaming: Rowdies Youtube channel, and D.C. will stream that through their site as well.
What are you Drinking?: Because it's preseason and I spent last night at a tap takeover featuring Grimm Ales, a brewery from Brooklyn who make some very good beers, including a highly rated IPA and an excellent gose, I'm leaning towards Popo Peach, a cider from Corcoran, a cidery/winery near me.
Treat this as your game thread for tonight.