D.C. United hits the road tonight for the first time in four weeks, traveling to face the Montreal Impact in the first of four away games over the next five weeks. (Nobody ever accused MLS of reasonable scheduling.) If you’re thinking “hey, didn’t we just play?” the answer is yes! Kickoff comes 73 hours after United completed its draw with the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, and United will take the field for the third time in seven days Saturday back at RFK. (Again, reasonable scheduling and MLS don’t always go together.)
Montreal sit one spot and five points ahead of the Black-and-Red, while Orlando City SC — in action tonight against a very hot Toronto FC team — are tied with United on points. So a result tonight is a must for Ben Olsen’s side to remain in the playoff positions. With the aforementioned schedule congestion, one both teams could heavily rotate their lineups, and depth will be a big deal. That’s not going to be any relief for United, who have played backup fullbacks a total of zero MLS minutes in 2016 and who will be going against speedster Dominic Oduro if Mauro Biello decides to give Didier Drogba the night off.
Montreal and the Philadelphia Union — who sit in fourth place just one point ahead of L’Impact — both got crushed over the weekend and could be vulnerable to a late-season swoon, which United could help precipitate. This is a sneakily important game, both for playoff qualification and even for seeding.
If ever there was a time for Los Capitalinos’ second road win of the year, this would be it.
D.C. United projected Starting XI: Rotation or no rotation, Bill Hamid will be in goal. But I think the back line will see a pretty serious shakeup, with Nick DeLeon stepping into Sean Franklin’s right fullback spot, Steve Birnbaum rotating out to Taylor Kemp’s position on the left side and the tandem of Kofi Opare and Jalen Robinson starting in the center.
Rob Vincent gives Marcelo Sarvas the night off in the #6 spot, while Julian Büscher steps into the midfield alongside Luciano Acosta. Patrick Mullins and Lloyd Sam join Lucho as the only field players starting in their usual positions, and Lamar Neagle spells Patrick Nyarko on the left side of the formation and wears the armband.
4141: Hamid; DeLeon, Robinson, Opare, Birnbaum; Vincent; Sam, Büscher, Acosta, Neagle (C); Mullins
Match previews: We focused on Ben Olsen and squad rotation in our preview of tonight’s affair, and we broke down how Montreal will cope with the quick turn-around in Opposition 11. The B&RU staff can’t agree on predicting a win, loss or draw from tonight, so somebody is guaranteed to be right and lord it over everybody else in our Slack channel. The team website pits playmaker against playmaker in looking at Lucho Acosta and the Impact’s MVP candidate Ignacio Piatti.
Referee: Robert Sibiga, in his 15th MLS appearance as the center official
What are you drinking?: D.C. summer may be close to cooling off, but it’s not quite there yet. I’ll be drinking a gin rickey with the District’s finest, Green Hat Gin.
Prediction: You might accuse me of drinking Kool-Aid, but I’m picking a win for United tonight. Look for Sam to make Acosta’s pressure pay off as he converts a deep Montreal turnover into a DC goal. Birnbaum and Mullins to reprise their set piece combination from Sunday to push the lead to 2 before halftime. Drogba enters as a sub and pulls one back for the hosts, but the Black-and-Red hang on, 2-1. You can read the rest of our guesses here.
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