Today’s Atlantic Cup finale between D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls could see the Black-and-Red jump back into the playoff places with a win. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Red Bulls have not lost in 10 outings, and they’ve been particularly good at home all season long. United would win the season series with a draw, but at this stage of the season United could really use the confidence boost of delivering a statement win at Red Bull Arena.
D.C. United projected Starting XI: There shouldn’t be too many surprises, though there are unavailable players to account for in central midfield. Bill Hamid will be in goal, with Steve Birnbaum returning from USMNT duty to join Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, and hopefully a fit-again Taylor Kemp in the back four. Rob Vincent will anchor the midfield, with normal #6 Marcelo Sarvas moving up to join either Nick DeLeon or Julian Buescher in central midfield. Lloyd Sam will start on the right wing, and Patrick Nyarko will start if he’s fit after last week’s repeated collisions didn’t leave any lasting damage. If he’s unavailable, Lamar Neagle will start instead. Patrick Mullins will take up his now-customary lone striker role.
Off the bench, look for Neagle to get in on one wing or the other sometime past the hour mark. If Buescher doesn’t start and United needs a goal, he’ll come in for DeLeon or Vincent. Kennedy Igboananike is a possibility on the left (if United’s pushing to draw level) or up front if the Black-and-Red have a lead. Alvaro Saborio is also in the running for minutes, particularly if it gets late and United has to play more direct. Travis Worra, Jalen Robinson, and Luke Mishu will complete the bench.
Match previews: Our preview from earlier talks about the enforced changes in midfield, while Opposition 11 lays out how the Red Bulls will approach this one.
Referee: Jair Marrufo
What are you drinking?: I was up quite late last night after plans and procrastination pushed some blog stuff back, so I will be sipping on either an Americano (if I go grocery shopping) or a pourover of whatever the light roast is that I bought a while back. But coffee. Definitely coffee.
Prediction: I missed my chance to get in on our predictions post, but I still have some expectations. The Red Bulls have been stellar at home, but quite frankly their suspensions on the wings will make it hard for them to be quite so good at pressuring United into mistakes. I think we’re going to see what has become a familiar story for United games, with one team doing most of the good work only to cough up an equalizer in the final 15 minutes.
This time, though, it’ll be United snatching a point rather than giving something away. NYRB will score via a set piece - probably Bradley Wright-Phillips mopping up a loose ball - and will see a couple chances to pad that lead go by the wayside. United will get themselves a 1-1 draw through Mullins, who will be set up by Sam. The point on the road helps, and the Atlantic Cup comes back down south to a trophy case where it won’t be so damn lonely.
Consider this the place for pre-game, in-game and post-game comments.