It’s safe to say that D.C. United haven’t started the 2017 season quite as hoped or planned—that was true after the first game against Sporting Kansas City, and it was even more true after the best-not-dwell loss to New York City FC last weekend.
This week, United are back at home, and anything less than a win will be another disappointment for a team that seemed to have so much promise even just a month ago. What will actually happen, of course, remains to be seen, but we’re at least feeling confident enough that we won’t see another loss.
The Columbus Crew come into RFK on the same path that the Black-and-Red have taken so far this season: draw at home, loss on the road. Both teams are trying to find their first victory of the season and I think it comes down to this: will Lucho Acosta be back in the lineup? If yes, I think we see a United win. However, I think we miss out on Lucho’s debut for one more week, he remains out of the lineup and we see another 0-0 draw.
With starting center back (and designated player) Jonathan Mensah having received a late yellow card last weekend, the Columbus Crew are suddenly thin in the middle of the backline. Gaston Sauro is out for the season, so the likely central partner for Nicolai Naess is either rookie Alex Crognale or Josh Williams. I like the matchup of Patrick Mullins against any eligible Crew pairing based on those options, with or without Luciano Acosta. Mullins gets D.C. on the board for the first time this season, and United hangs on to win 1-0.
The Crew's possession game hasn't looked sturdy when put under the press, and that's what I think United will do early and at selected moments in this game. Ian Harkes and Lloyd Sam combine to force a turnover and feed Patrick Mullins for a goal in the first half. The Crew take advantage of their own miscommunication at the back as Justin Meram feeds Ethan Findlay for an equalizer. The Crew control long stretches of possession, but the biggest danger is at the other end as los Capitalinos create chances in transition. Alas, no gamewinner is forthcoming as Zach Steffen bails out the visitors to hang on for the 1-1 draw.
There are reasons to worry about the Crew: they're a possession-hoarding team like NYCFC, and United looked shaky defending that cross on the second Pigeons goal last week. However, where NYCFC makes tactical changes, Columbus plays the same way every time, and United has shown they can handle that approach at home. Lloyd Sam gets on track early, exploiting space behind the advanced Crew defense to serve in 2-3 good crosses. Mullins puts one of those away, and United's pressure has the Crew teetering on the brink of collapse. Unfortunately, the Crew snag a goal of their own just before halftime, with a mix-up at midfield letting Ola Kamara in for a breakaway.
United takes that one on the chin, but they don't let it change the course of the game. More pressure leaves the Crew unable to turn possession into anything of note, and Luciano Acosta's appearance off the bench turns the game. Lucho and Ian Harkes are involved in the move that becomes a Patrick Nyarko game-winner in the last 10 minutes. 2-1 DCU.
Am going to guess we see Rob Vincent's first start in 2017 as a defensive midfielder, while Jared Jeffrey and Ian Harkes play further forward in midfield. Am also going to guess that Federico Higuain makes at least one of them pay for something as the Crew take a 1-0 lead. However, the Crew's missing a first choice center back (Mensah) to suspension, and Afful was subbed off after 45 minutes last week and may still be rattled. So I think that Patrick Nyarko and Lloyd Sam are integral in the next/last two goals, the former putting in a ball from Taylor Kemp early in the second half, and the latter gets one in to Patrick Mullins for the go-ahead goal. Three points to the good guys, all fun abounds.
A first for D.C. United in 2017! A goal! It doesn't take long for United to get off the mark against the Crew, with Patrick Mullins doing the job early on. And there's plenty of chances for United to put the game away, but their finishing continues to let them down. And they almost escape with a win, but a late equalizer from the Crew mean the two team split the points, and United's 2017 continues to mirror their start in 2016.
You guys, is a goal so much to ask for? We haven’t seen one for the Black-and-Red yet, and I’m getting antsy. Surely (surely!) the team gets it together enough this week to score, but I’m not convinced we’ll see more than that. However, 1-0 is still a winning scoreline, and DCU hold on to keep it for three points in their third game. The past is the past, you know. We’re moving on to a season of actual goals now.
How do you think this game will go down? Let us know your predictions in the comments, but first! A poll: