Facing a New York City FC team that looks like a near certainty to qualify for the playoffs, D.C. United has a chance to prove some things to the rest of the league (not to mention themselves). Their new-look lineup is clearly improved, but can they take the promising home performances on the road? Last week’s draw in Montreal saw United field a heavily rotated lineup (thanks MLS schedule!), and the rest of the games in this six-game unbeaten run were at RFK Stadium.
It’s also a chance to prove that the Black-and-Red can do more than simply qualify for the playoffs. The Eastern Conference, for much of the year, has had a stark divide between the top five teams and the bottom five, with United spending quite a while as merely being arguably the best team of the also-rans. DCU has played some of the other playoff teams in the East lately, and deserved better than home draws against the Impact, Union, and Red Bulls.
However, “deserved” doesn’t mean much in the postseason, and it’s hard to make any noise if you can’t get the job done away from home. At some point, United needs to win a game on the road that doesn’t involve a calamitous late goalkeeping error. NYCFC has not been the best at home in 2016, so this may be United’s chance to show everyone that the top five need to make room for one more.
D.C. United projected Starting XI: In all likelihood, Ben Olsen will make two changes to the team that beat Chicago 6-2, both due to circumstances beyond his control. Bill Hamid will remain in goal, but the back four will see one change: Kofi Opare will step in for Steve Birnbaum, who is away with the USMNT. Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, and Taylor Kemp will, as expected, make up the rest of the back line.
In the midfield, Marcelo Sarvas will set up in the anchor role, with Luciano Acosta joined by either Nick DeLeon or Rob Vincent (a move necessitated by Jared Jeffrey’s suspension for card accumulation) ahead of him. Lloyd Sam and Patrick Nyarko will set up on the wings, with Patrick Mullins looking to put one over on his old team up front.
Off the bench, Lamar Neagle seems likely to come in for one of the wingers. Kennedy Igboananike should sub in as well, either up top or on the flank. If United wants to shut up shop, we might see Vincent/DeLeon come in for Acosta, or a move that sees DeLeon playing wide. If United needs a goal and they’ve already brought Igboananike on, I’d expect to see Alvaro Saborio (who scored a last-gasp winner against NYCFC last fall). The rest of the bench is likely to be Travis Worra, Jalen Robinson, and Luke Mishu, though it wouldn’t be a major shock to see Julian Buescher make the 18 over Mishu or Saborio.
Match previews: Our predictions are nearly evenly spread across win, draw, or loss, while our preview from this morning talks about how Marcelo’s play may be the bellwether for United tonight. Opposition 11 didn’t happen because the bum that writes it is going out of town and used his time towards that end instead. So in lieu of that...
NYCFC projected Starting XI: Patrick Vieira sets his team up in a 433, in which eight starters are pretty much locked in. Here’s what it should look like (right to left):
Josh Saunders; Jason Hernandez, Felix Brillant/Maxime Chanot, Chanot/Jefferson Mena, RJ Allen; Frank Lampard, Andoni Iraola, Andrea Pirlo; Steven Mendoza/Jack Harrison, David Villa, Tommy McNamara
Referee: Chris Penso
What are you drinking?: I am driving to the beach after the game ends, so I’ll have to stick to soft drinks. Maybe iced coffee, maybe water.
Prediction: I think this game might be a bit crazy, as are many NYCFC home games due to their field being so small. United gets out to an early lead via Mullins, but the Pigeons score before halftime through Villa and after halftime through Lampard. NYCFC, as they tend to do, will go for a third goal, and Hamid will produce some big saves to keep United within touching distance. That will pay off, as Neagle comes off the bench to capitalize off of a late defensive error to level the scores. 2-2 draw.
Consider this the place for pre-game, in-game and post-game comments. Vamos United!