The weirdness of D.C. United’s 2018 season continues today, with a home game that isn’t at home. The Black-and-Red will host the Houston Dynamo at the Maryland Soccerplex, a familiar venue (United has played 16 games at the Plex, all but one of which was an Open Cup match) that is nonetheless not their home. The small, intimate venue has a tendency to bring out United’s dramatic side, with numerous games being settled in extra time and on-field scuffles breaking out more than once.
The Black-and-Red may or may not add to their collection of myths in the Maryland suburbs, but the emphasis within the team and with fans is surely on adding to their point total. United is off to a frustrating start to the season, and with the schedule about to get very tough indeed (their next three are at Columbus, at KC, and at Toronto), a win borders on essential for D.C. regardless of venue.
Key player(s): Junior Moreno and Ulises Segura
United’s new central midfield seems promising, but in crucial moments they’ve made some big, costly mistakes so far this season. Segura has been a major culprit on two of the four goals D.C. has given up, while Moreno seemed lost all game against Atlanta.
That has to improve if United’s going to get a win today. Houston is known more for their transition play and wingers, but if the Black-and-Red can’t control the middle, the Dynamo will have a platform to create the counter attacks that define them. Moreno and Segura both need to cut the mistakes out of their game and make life difficult for guys like Eric Alexander and Tomas Martinez. Otherwise, Ben Olsen needs to move from considering homegrown players Chris Durkin and Ian Harkes to outright starting them.
Location: Maureen Hendricks Field at Maryland Soccerplex (Boyds, MD)
Kickoff time: 1:30pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4141) - David Ousted; Nick DeLeon, Frederic Brillant, Steve Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Junior Moreno; Paul Arriola, Ulises Segura, Luciano Acosta, Yamil Asad; Darren Mattocks
Bench: Steve Clark, Kofi Opare, Oniel Fisher, Chris Durkin, Ian Harkes, Zoltan Stieber, Patrick Mullins
I expect Ben Olsen to return to the 4141 after using a 4231 as a defensive measure in Atlanta. The only changes I suspect we’ll see are starts for Mora and Acosta. Mora is eligible after getting his U.S. visa this week, while United badly needs Lucho’s dribbling on the field from the start. That moves Fisher and Stieber to the bench, with the latter still likely to play a big role in this game as a sub.
Projected Houston starting 11: (4231) - Chris Seitz; Kevin Garcia, Adolfo Machado, Leonardo, DaMarcus Beasley; Darwin Ceren, Eric Alexander; Alberth Elis, Tomas Martinez, Andrew Wenger; Mauro Manotas
Philippe Senderos could start if he’s fit to play, but that seems slightly less than likely. Romell Quioto may be preferred over Wenger, but it’s unclear how many minutes he can play after a preseason injury.
Referee: Dave Gantar
Available TV: NewsChannel 8 and regional affiliates (check the link for the over-the-air alternate channel in your area), including CW Richmond in RVA.
Available streaming: MLS Live for those outside the blackout radius. MLS Live is free for the time being, as ESPN’s new streaming platform is not yet ready (though you might want to check that against this from MLS, which checks your zip code against the blackout list). If you already have an MLS Live account, it should be good to go.
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: We’re feeling not entirely pessimistic about today’s result, and had a look at Houston’s squad yesterday. Earlier this week, Filibuster spent plenty of time on the Dynamo.
What are you drinking?: I’ll be driving straight to Richmond following this one for the Spirit’s preseason game, so no alcohol this time. Given the conditions (43 degrees, breezy, 40% chance of rain, woo!), I’m going to go with press box coffee.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos Plex weirdness!