Believe it or not, the MLS season is lurking right around the corner, with D.C. United just one week away from their season opener. Before that, they have one last preseason contest: a match against Las Vegas Lights FC, a USL expansion club who seem hell-bent on producing wildly entertaining games. The Lights will apparently field a familiar face in Freddy Adu, who is on trial with Las Vegas and reportedly will play in tonight’s game.
That’s not the only reason to expect fireworks. Las Vegas has had two preseason games against MLS opposition, and they’ve seen the Lights finish down a man both times. Last week also saw three coaching staff members ejected, including former Chivas USA boss and living legend “Chelis” Sanchez Sola (who literally hopped into the stands and lit up a cigarette). Naturally, Las Vegas scored twice while playing with 10 men. Center back Joel Huiqui and right back Marcelo Alatorre have Liga MX experience (Huiqui even has 15 caps for Mexico), while their former MLS players include Daigo Kobayashi, Carlos Alvarez, and Sammy Ochoa.
Key player: David Ousted and/or Steve Clark
The moment Ousted was signed, the perspective from most observers (both locally and nationally) was that he would likely emerge the victor in a preseason battle with Steve Clark for the starting job. Clark had some big moments in the final games of 2017, but he also gave up some shaky goals. Ousted, meanwhile, had a longer run of MLS success, and his availability appeared to largely be the result of a questionable decision from Vancouver’s coaching staff.
That isn’t quite how things have played out. While Ousted has not really been poor, he did miss some time during training camp due to illness, and in the meantime Clark has won praise from Ben Olsen, saving a penalty kick against the Union and looking more technically sound than he did last fall. Ousted hasn’t really made any substantial mistakes, but he hasn’t looked more convincing than Clark either.
We’ve listed Ousted as today’s projected starter, but it feels like a coin toss at this point. The deciding factor may well be which goalkeeper can orchestrate the more organized performance from the defense in front of him. Of all the positional battles for United right now, this one is the closest.
Location: Cashman Field (Las Vegas, NV)
Kickoff time: 11:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4141) - David Ousted; Nick DeLeon, Frederic Brillant, Steve Birnbaum, Oniel Fisher; Junior Moreno; Paul Arriola, Ulises Segura, Zoltan Stieber, Yamil Asad; Darren Mattocks
Bench: Steve Clark, Kofi Opare, Jalen Robinson, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Chris Durkin, Ian Harkes, Luciano Acosta, Bruno Miranda, Patrick Mullins
Ben Olsen has habitually fielded his opening day starting 11 in the final game of the preseason, and that’s what I think we’ll see tonight. With Acosta’s suspension against Orlando City, the issue of sorting through four excellent attacking midfield types for three spots is pushed off for a week.
The non-GK questions appear mostly to have an answer. Mattocks seems to be ahead of Mullins at this point, while Fisher is the clearest option to replace Taylor Kemp as the latter recovers from surgery. Moreno standing in for Russell Canouse is less certain thanks to Durkin’s preseason play, but it does seem the Venezuelan has the edge.
Available TV: None
What do we have to say about it?: Steven Streff talked to Asad about his choice to join United and the competition for time on the midfield.
What are you drinking?: I am leaning towards some tequila, but the game is over 8 hours away. So let’s pencil in El Padrino de Mi Tierra añejo neat, but this could be subject to change.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos end of preseason!