D.C. United’s schedule has not been full of luxuries this year, but one of the few advantageous moments comes tonight against Orlando City. The Black-and-Red, in the midst of a long World Cup break and with no game to think about this weekend, should field their best eleven in pursuit of a 14th trophy. The Lions, meanwhile, are coming off of three straight three-goal losses and fired coach Jason Kreis just five days ago. Tonight is a major opportunity for United to show they can put in a complete performance from start to finish and see off a troubled foe.
Key player: Joseph Mora
Orlando has coughed up 11 goals in their last 3 games, and while a coaching change usually brings an emotional response and better focus, OCSC’s issues have been structural. Those are the ones that take a long time to fix, and as such they’re going to be present tonight, so United’s attack should create enough chances to win the game.
The problem, as has so often been the case this season, is that the Black-and-Red might also give away enough chances to waste a high-scoring game. Mora is not solely responsible for this, but the start of his MLS career has been rocky. Orlando’s struggles have not been because of their wide attackers, and a good performance from Mora (along with right back Oniel Fisher) is critical in terms of shutting the Lions down. If we see Mora produce a solid 90 minutes without major individual errors or lost marks, United’s chances of a spot in the quarterfinals are very strong.
Location: Maureen Hendricks Field at Maryland SoccerPlex (Boyds, MD)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4141) - David Ousted; Oniel Fisher, Frederic Brillant, Steve Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Chris Durkin; Zoltan Stieber, Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta, Yamil Asad; Darren Mattocks
Bench: Steve Clark, Jalen Robinson, Jared Jeffrey, Ian Harkes, Bruno Miranda, Dane Kelly, Patrick Mullins
With no game for another ten days, there are no good reasons to rotate beyond perhaps giving Steve Clark or Jalen Robinson a game to keep them sharp. Against a reeling opponent who is a) more than a little unknown right now due to Jason Kreis getting his walking papers and b) looking at a game this weekend, United ought to go all out to win this game.
Why Jeffrey and not Junior Moreno? Open Cup rules restrict teams to five internationals, and I suspect Ben Olsen wants to keep Miranda involved as a versatile attacking sub. However, there’s a decent chance he goes the other way and leaves out the young Bolivian for Jeffrey instead.
Projected Orlando starting 11: (4231) - Earl Edwards Jr; Will Johnson, Chris Schuler, Amro Tarek, Mohamed El-Munir; Cristian Higuita, Dillon Powers; Chris Mueller, Jose Villarreal, PC; Stefano Pinho
This is a guess, since interim coach Bobby Murphy is something of an unknown quantity. The 4231 is probably going to stay in place given the lack of time Orlando has had to convert to something else. On top of that, the importance Orlando is putting on this game is not clear; will they emphasize Saturday’s game against Montreal over this one? I suspect they will, but that still means players like Dom Dwyer and Sacha Kljestan will probably be part of a very strong bench, though.
Available TV: None
Available streaming: USsoccer.com (this is a link right to it, which is easier than hunting through their site)
What do we have to say about it?: Ben favors more rotation than I do in tonight’s lineup, and we spent plenty of time talking about what to expect in this one on Filibuster. I’ll have more details on the Orlando lineup later today.
What are you drinking?: I’ll be covering this game in the press box, so just whatever bottled water is on hand. Have one for me at the beer tent.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos cup run!