Most of MLS is already on their World Cup break, but D.C. United has one last piece of business, as they travel to Canada to face Toronto FC, the defending MLS Cup champions. This game was originally scheduled for April, but United opted to sign off on rescheduling it due to TFC’s CONCACAF Champions League obligations. That may come at a cost, as United arrives in Ontario to find the Reds rounding into form after a slow start to the season.
Key player: David Ousted
TFC is going to have Sebastian Giovinco for this one, and that should send shudders up your spine. The Atomic Ant has 6 goals and 2 assists against United in 6 appearances, which is to say that against the Black-and-Red, he improves on his already lofty standards. In 2018 he’s got 3 goals and 6 assists in 10 appearances, and is by and large considered to be having a quiet season, which is wild.
United needs to have a great defensive outing to keep Giovinco contained and quiet, but even if they do, he’s still probably going to create some big chances. On both fronts, Ousted could be crucial. The Dane needs to be at his best in terms of organization to keep the team in front of him in the best spots to slow TFC down, and he’s going to have to produce some absolutely top-notch saves. It’s an unfair burden, but that’s what happens when your opponent is as talented as Toronto is.
Location: BMO Field (Toronto, Ontario)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4141) - David Ousted; Oniel Fisher, Frederic Brillant, Steve Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Chris Durkin; Bruno Miranda, Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta, Zoltan Stieber; Darren Mattocks
Bench: Steve Clark, Jalen Robinson, Junior Moreno, Jared Jeffrey, Ian Harkes, Yamil Asad, Patrick Mullins
I’d recommend more rotation (especially among the fullbacks), but United is down to 20 healthy players for the time being, and Saturday to Wednesday isn’t that brutal. As such, I’m guessing we see only two changes: Durkin coming in for Moreno, which Ben Olsen hinted at on Saturday’s broadcast, and Miranda getting a start for Asad (who played both the full 120 in the Open Cup and the full 90 in Seattle).
This inability to bring new faces in without a significant drop in quality will probably see United looking to hold the tempo way down in this one, with an emphasis on sporadic counter-attacking rather than the high press we’ve seen in road games on a regular basis this season. It also means we might see an early sub for Arriola (151 minutes between NC and Seattle) and/or Mattocks (125).
Projected Toronto FC starting 11: (352) - Alex Bono; Gregory van der Wiel, Nick Hagglund, Jason Hernandez; Auro Jr., Jay Chapman, Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio, Nicolas Hasler; Victor Vazquez, Sebastian Giovinco
Greg Vanney started this exact lineup in Philadelphia, but after half an hour and going up 1-0, he moved into a 442 diamond with van der Wiel moving to left back, Auro dropping in at right back, and Hasler pinching inside as the left-center midfielder. However, if Vanney wants to add fresh legs, he could turn to the fit-again Marky Delgado in the middle or on the right, or former TFC II player Ryan Telfer on the left. Eriq Zavaleta may be fit enough to return for his first start in a month; if so, he’d step in for Hernandez.
Referee: Robert Sibiga
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.
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: We will have predictions and a deeper look at TFC’s lineup coming later today. Friggin’ midweek games, there’s no time!
What are you drinking?: Feels like a gin and tonic kind of day, so I won’t fight it.
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