D.C. United has been in playoff mode for nearly three months, but today against FC Dallas they have a chance to actually take over a playoff spot. A win over the Western Conference leaders would take them above the Montreal Impact since March 16, and more importantly would move them within two wins of clinching a spot in the postseason. Doing so will be easier said than done, though, as Dallas is on a five-game unbeaten run and wants to assure themselves of home-field advantage as far into the playoffs as they can.
Key player: Bill Hamid
Normally in a game where the theme has been hot offense vs. great defense, you’d think the key for United would be their attack overwhelming that stout Dallas back four. However, with Dallas also possessing a dangerous counter-attack and being one of the best set piece teams in MLS, the key is probably at the other end.
Hamid is most likely going to have to produce a couple of great stops against the run of play, because the Toros have tons of speed and, like Montreal a couple of weeks ago, have the ability to produce plenty of chances even when playing on the back foot. On set pieces, Hamid might even be more important: he’ll have to show great judgment on service, of course, but he’ll also need to make sure the group stays organized and focused, and he’ll probably need to show his remarkable reflexes once or twice in those situations.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 4:55pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Bill Hamid; Nick DeLeon, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Chris Durkin, Russell Canouse; Zoltan Stieber, Luciano Acosta, Yamil Asad; Wayne Rooney
Bench: Travis Worra, Kofi Opare, Jalen Robinson, Kevin Ellis, Jared Jeffrey, Ian Harkes, Bruno Miranda
With injuries and international call-ups, United has 19 potential players to choose from for this one. However, with Opare questionable and Paul Arriola tending to more important things after the passing of his father, we could see a short bench. Opare seems likely to dress, though with him and DeLeon both risks to need a sub, Ben Olsen will probably only start one of the two. Look for DeLeon to go an hour at right back before making way for Ellis.
With Junior Moreno and Ulises Segura missing from the midfield, Harkes and Jeffrey will suit up for the first time in quite a while. Miranda is in a similar case, as he’ll be the forward on the bench due to Darren Mattocks and Dane Kelly both being called up by Jamaica.
Projected Dallas starting 11: (4231) - Jesse Gonzalez; Ryan Hollingshead, Matt Hedges, Reto Ziegler, Marquinhos Pedroso; Abel Aguilar, Victor Ulloa; Michael Barrios, Maximiliano Urruti, Santiago Mosquera; Dominique Badji
Dallas is missing call-ups Reggie Cannon, Carlos Gruezo, and Maynor Figueroa. Unfortunately, they are more than able to replace them with good players. Cannon’s replacement Hollingshead would start on most teams in the league, while Gruezo’s understudy Aguilar was on Colombia’s World Cup squad this past summer. The only question mark here is on the left wing, where the choice is a direct speedster (Mosquera) or Pablo Aranguiz, who is more of a traditional playmaker who drifts inside from the left in Oscar Pareja’s current set-up.
Referee: Jose Carlos Rivero
Available TV: Univision, Univision Deportes
Available streaming: Univision Now, and Twitter (the Twitter feed has English-language commentary if that’s your preference)
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: Filibuster dissected this game, and we’ll have Opposition 11 for you in about an hour. In the meantime, read into some definitely real and not fictional Buzzard Point history.
What are you drinking?: It’s going to be in the 50s, so black coffee from somewhere in the Navy Yard/Buzzard Point vicinity, and then probably another cup from the Keurig in the press box.
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