RFK Stadium hasn’t had all that much joy in 2016, as D.C. United has gone just 5-4-4 on East Capitol Street. The recent string of four straight at home was a bit of a letdown, as United ended up with three ties (two of which involved late comebacks), but on the plus side the Black-and-Red have at least been a better team going forward. They may not be great at punishing teams when they create chances, or at seeing games out, but you can’t call the recent games boring.
Today against the Chicago Fire, though, anything other than a win can only be seen as a disappointment. Chicago recently broke a 35 game winless streak on the road, and are MLS’s 19th best team (and they’re only above last via a tiebreaker). Nearly all of their best eleven have already played 170+ minutes this week, including a draining 2-2 draw less than 72 hours ago. Sure, the Fire are starting to play better lately, but there are no excuses tonight. If United is a playoff team, they win this game.
D.C. United projected Starting XI: United gave themselves the chance to play a familiar starting lineup by resting players mid-week. That means Bill Hamid in goal behind the normal back four of Sean Franklin, Steve Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, and Taylor Kemp. Marcelo Sarvas will anchor the midfield, which will feature Lloyd Sam on the right, either Patrick Nyarko or Lamar Neagle on the left (Nyarko might need a rest after going 90 against the Impact), and the pairing of Luciano Acosta and Jared Jeffrey in the middle. Patrick Mullins will return up front.
Off the bench, look for Kennedy Igboananike to come in for the final 20 minutes in an attempt to put one over on his old team. I’d also expect Neagle/Nyarko to replace Nyarko/Neagle around the hour mark. Nick DeLeon is also a safe bet to sub in, though if United needs to grab a goal they’re more likely to turn to Alvaro Saborio. The rest of the bench will be Travis Worra, Jalen Robinson, and Rob Vincent.
Referee: Drew Fischer (note: only 6 red cards and 16 penalty kicks given in 59 career games)
What are you drinking?: Atlas Brew Works will apparently have beer for sale in the fan zone today, so I’m going to hit them up before kickoff (provided WMATA does not strand me somewhere without explanation).
Prediction: As I said earlier this week in our staff predictions post, I think United takes this one. The risk of rotating out most of the starting eleven resulted in a point in Montreal against the full-strength Impact, and has now given United the chance to field a rested, first-choice team against a tired Chicago club who have one road win in about two years. Mullins and Sam bag the goals, and United ends up deserving their 2-0 win.
Consider this the place for pre-game, in-game and post-game comments. Vamos United!