All of the talk in D.C. United’s world has been about Wayne Rooney and the move into the club’s new home on Buzzard Point, but we’re not there yet. United still has two games to go before they evolve into whatever they’re going to become, and as such they need to focus on today’s trip to face the New England Revolution first and foremost. Putting it plainly, United is right on the brink of being too far adrift of a playoff spot to have any hope of a postseason spot, and the Revs are one of the teams they’re trying to catch. A win today for the Black-and-Red could end up being a critical moment when all is said and done.
Key player: Chris Durkin
There’s not much in the way of elegance when it comes to New England; they press high, they work hard, they get in your face, and they make it tough to play. For any opposing player seeing a lot of the ball in their own half, that makes for a tricky day at the office. The Revs want to force turnovers, and let those turnovers become their best playmaker.
Today’s assignment is three-pronged for Durkin: he has to show superior awareness in order to avoid coughing the ball up in dangerous spots. He also needs to keep up with the pace of play defensively, especially when having to defend on the turn, which is a facet of his game that still needs work. And finally, given his excellent passing over long distance, Durkin needs to be able to punish the Revs for their aggression by picking out runners going the other way. It’s a lot to ask, but that’s why teams take the risk of high pressing. If Durkin has a successful game, United could be on course for a much-needed win.
Location: Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, MA)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4141) - David Ousted; Jalen Robinson, Frederic Brillant, Steve Birnbaum, Oniel Fisher; Chris Durkin; Zoltan Stieber, Ian Harkes, Luciano Acosta, Yamil Asad; Darren Mattocks
Bench: Steve Clark, Jared Jeffrey, Junior Moreno, Russell Canouse, Bruno Miranda, Dane Kelly, Patrick Mullins
Taylor Kemp, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Kofi Opare, Paul Arriola, Ulises Segura, and Nick DeLeon are all out with injuries, though at least the latter trio are not too far from returning. We expect Harkes to get the nod in Arriola’s place, while Robinson (who did well in the Open Cup after Joseph Mora went down injured) will likely come in at right back, with Fisher switching flanks.
Mora is questionable with a hamstring strain, and could still be part of the traveling party. If he can dress, Ben Olsen can drop one of the three defensive midfielders (probably Jeffrey, unless they don’t want to risk Canouse’s comeback on the turf at Gillette). Otherwise, the next man up in the back is probably Durkin playing as a defender.
Projected New England starting 11: (4231) - Matt Turner; Andrew Farrell, Antonio Delamea, Jalil Anibaba, Gabriel Somi; Luis Caicedo, Kelyn Rowe; Krisztian Nemeth, Diego Fagundez, Cristian Penilla; Teal Bunbury
This has become the team for the Revs lately, and you’ll note that it doesn’t include all-star selection Wilfried Zahibo. Caicedo has become the indispensable man in New England’s engine room, and Brad Friedel has started selecting Rowe over the more destructive Zahibo. We could also see Claudie Dielna start at center back, pushing Anibaba over to left back instead of the more attacking Somi. In that case, United should attack down their right regularly, as Anibaba is more of a center back who can play right back than a natural left back.
Referee: Allen Chapman
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 are you drinking?: The last few days have been exhausting, so I might need to turn to iced coffee for this one.
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