It feels like D.C. United has been on the road forever, and yet tonight’s game against the San Jose Earthquakes marks just the third of eight straight away from home. It also feels like it might be crucial, as San Jose has been largely unimpressive this year (making this an opportunity for the Black-and-Red) as well as an inflection point within the long slog of away games. A win now might produce some momentum, while another loss would start to make it hard to reverse course, particularly with a tough game at LAFC coming up next week.
Key player: Luciano Acosta
Last week didn’t go well for Lucho, who threw away a couple of promising attacks by trying to force through balls before being sacrificed to add a defender after Joseph Mora got his marching orders. Acosta was not happy about it at all, but it’s hard to argue with the choice given his performance and the switch to a 441 formation.
This week, however, looks promising for United’s playmaker. San Jose has struggled badly at defending between the lines, with their double-pivot often leaving plenty of space to attack their center backs and create for others. That’s just the kind of weakness that helps a player like Acosta, and as a result there should be real pressure on him to make it count. If Lucho is clever and creative in the pockets of space the Quakes leave him, United should have plenty of good scoring chances...but only if he shows the patience and vision to take advantage.
Location: Avaya Stadium (San Jose, CA)
Kickoff time: 10:30pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4141) - Steve Clark; Nick DeLeon, Frederic Brillant, Steve Birnbaum, Oniel Fisher; Chris Durkin; Zoltan Stieber, Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta, Yamil Asad; Darren Mattocks
Bench: David Ousted, Kofi Opare, Jalen Robinson, Jared Jeffrey, Ian Harkes, Bruno Miranda, Patrick Mullins
With Ulises Segura out for a couple of months with an MCL sprain and Mora suspended, figuring out the gameday 18 isn’t too hard. Fisher seems set to replace Mora at left back, while Asad figures to step in for Segura (with Stieber probably switching flanks to make room). Ben Olsen will probably want to get another look at Arriola in central midfield after saying he was the best player on the team in last week’s loss.
The only real question mark is whether Junior Moreno (who was upgraded to probable and was on the flight out to California) is going to be included on the bench. It seems like one week too soon for him, though, so expect Jeffrey to be included. The other option would be to bring Dane Kelly along, but United is thinner in central midfield right now.
Projected San Jose starting 11: (442) - Andrew Tarbell; Nick Lima, Harold Cummings, Florian Jungwirth, Shea Salinas; Magnus Eriksson, Fatai Alashe, Anibal Godoy, Vako; Chris Wondolowski, Danny Hoesen
This is a projected lineup that contains little in the way of rotation (mostly just Alashe in for Jackson Yueill), but with San Jose playing their third game in a week, and seven players going the full 90 last Saturday and again on Wednesday, we could see some unfamiliar starters instead. Quincy Amarikwa (up front) and Chris Wehan (on the left) are candidates, as is left back Joel Qwiberg.
Of course, Mikael Stahre has been willing to change formation, so we might not see the empty bucket. There are a lot of variables at play, especially with Yeferson Quintana and Jahmir Hyka both out with ankle injuries.
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
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.
What are you drinking?: The answer to this depends on whether I risk going to the Spirit game and then racing against time to make it home in time for kickoff. Water if yes, tequila if no.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos getting a weird-ass win because it’s #DCUAfterDark.