It almost feels like a D.C. United preseason doesn’t count without a game against the Philadelphia Union. In the last six preseasons, these teams have met four times, and the games have largely resembled what we’ve seen in the regular season and Open Cup. Three straight preseason meetings have finished 1-1, and all of these games have been chippy, tightly-contested affairs. It’s always a fight when you put United and the Union on the field together.
With the regular season just two weeks away from kicking off, however, both teams will want to see some fluent soccer added to that grit. Their offseasons have been quite different: while United made many signings but never quite landed the kind of player that generates league-wide buzz, Philadelphia opted to do very little to their roster aside from one major move (a draft-day trade for David Accam). Today will be an indicator of which strategy was better for two teams that were well short of the playoffs last year.
Key player: Yamil Asad
United’s newest signing has been with the team for a little while now, and it seems certain that we’ll see him starting on the left wing this evening. Obviously the expectation after his successful 2017 is that he’ll add a spark to the attack, but the bar on doing so from the left is pretty high. To keep Zoltan Stieber on the bench, Asad is going to have to be every bit as good as he was for Atlanta.
What else should we look for out of Asad? He and Paul Arriola are among MLS’s hardest-working wingers, and that should allow the Black-and-Red to become more dangerous as a high-pressing team. Without investing in a high-priced forward, the solution for D.C.’s attack should be about creating better chances, and one way to do so is to force turnovers deep in the opposing end.
Location: Al Lang Stadium (St. Petersburg, FL)
Kickoff time: 5:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4141) - David Ousted; Nick DeLeon, Frederic Brillant, Steve Birnbaum, Oniel Fisher; Junior Moreno; Paul Arriola, Ulises Segura, Luciano Acosta, Yamil Asad; Patrick Mullins
Bench: Steve Clark, Travis Worra, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Kofi Opare, Jalen Robinson, Chris Durkin, Bruno Miranda, Ian Harkes, Jared Jeffrey, Zoltan Stieber, Darren Mattocks, and the mysteries that are players #37 and #40
I’m curious to see whether Ben Olsen sticks with the 4141 or not. I think he will, but I’m not 100% certain; today’s game is going to be a strong indicator of whether Plan A is settled in terms of formation. Ousted seems likely to get minutes after having a week to get over a reported illness, while Steve Goff is reporting that Birnbaum and Acosta should be good to go. Russell Canouse and Taylor Kemp are still out per that same piece, with Canouse dealing with a knee issue and Kemp being built back up to full fitness after a long layoff related to surgery last season.
Maybe the biggest question mark in this lineup is whether Mullins or Mattocks will get the start. My guess is that Olsen will have them alternate, with the starter going 60 and the sub going 30, as both audition for the starting gig. If that’s the case, Mullins is up for a start today.
Available TV: None
Available streaming: Tampa Bay Rowdies Youtube page and DCUnited.com
What do we have to say about it?: Ben wrote up the lineup he wants to see, which includes an emphasis on seeing Asad make his debut.
What are you drinking?: I’m leaning towards a Moscow Mule for this one.
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