Summer is winding down, and we’re seeing some signs that D.C. United is rounding into form at the right time. The Black-and-Red’s new formation and some trade window acquisitions have panned out, and they’ve gone six straight without a loss. Of course, we have to note some caveats: United has played five of those six games at home, and with four draws in the bunch they’re still only one point ahead of Orlando City for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Tonight against New York City FC, United will face a huge test. United’s one road game in this run came mid-week in Montreal, where the Black-and-Red rotated heavily and spent the final 30 minutes unable to slow the waves of Impact pressure. It was good enough to get a road draw, but United’s new best eleven was meant to do more than grind out ties on the road. We haven’t seen that in a road game yet, and if United’s going to make something of this season they’re going to have to improve upon a 1W-7D-4L road record.
Key player: Marcelo Sarvas
Just about everyone’s had fun laughing at Frank Lampard since he finally showed up in MLS, and NYCFC fans who aren’t laughing were at one point booing him for what appeared for all the world like a lack of commitment to the cause. However, since returning to full fitness, Lampard has been borderline unstoppable. In his 1,041 minutes played this season, he has 9 goals (or a goal every 115-116 minutes played). Stretched over a full season, that scoring rate would put him just barely short of tying the MLS record for goals in a season.
Lampard’s secret isn’t anything earth-shattering. He’s just better at making off-the-ball runs than any other MLS central midfielder, and those runs are already not particularly well-tracked across the league. Throw in David Villa worrying the back four and wide forwards that consistently occupy opposing fullbacks, and it’s clear how important United’s central midfield is going to be in terms of defending tonight. The defense is going to need the help.
All three central midfielders will have to play their part, but Marcelo needs to be extremely alert to Lampard’s runs from midfield. He’ll be in the best spot to track them, and he’s going to have to either stay with the former England international every time or communicate who is responsible for him to Jared Jeffrey’s stand-in (Nick DeLeon or Rob Vincent) and even Luciano Acosta. United will already have enough to deal with due to Villa, Andrea Pirlo, and Tommy McNamara. Keeping Lampard off the scoresheet is probably a must to finally get on a winning streak.
Location: Yankee Stadium (New York, NY)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Available TV: NewsChannel 8 and regional affiliates (check the link for the over-the-air alternate channel in your area), plus YES Network
Available streaming: MLS Live for those outside the blackout radius
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
Our gamethread will be posted one hour before kickoff.