D.C. United makes its entrance into the 2018 U.S. Open Cup tonight, hosting USL side North Carolina FC in the fourth round. Last year, United had to work hard before getting past local amateur club Christos FC before falling 2-1 to the New England Revolution. This year, they’ll start out against an NCFC side that, while struggling a bit in league play, has had plenty of success against MLS clubs back when they were the Carolina Railhawks.
Key player: Patrick Mullins
Let’s not mince words: 2018 has been a continuation of 2017, which for Mullins did not go well at all. He’s had his chances to make a difference off the bench, he’s gotten a couple of starts, and it just hasn’t happened for him. It’s one thing to have no goals, but it’s hard to think of an instance where United’s top scorer from 2016 has even made a clear impact on a game.
Tonight, likely getting a start against lower-level opposition, and with a fairly prominent forward getting close to signing with United, it’s time for Mullins to get back into a groove. That means better movement, more assertive hold-up play, smarter passing, and getting into goalscoring positions frequently.
Location: Maureen Hendricks Field at Maryland SoccerPlex (Boyds, MD)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4141) - Steve Clark; Oniel Fisher, Kofi Opare, Steve Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Junior Moreno; Zoltan Stieber, Ian Harkes, Bruno Miranda, Yamil Asad; Patrick Mullins
Bench: Travis Worra, Frederic Brillant, Jalen Robinson, Chris Durkin, Luciano Acosta, Paul Arriola, Darren Mattocks
Ben Olsen’s comments to Steven Streff yesterday indicate that he is not going to rotate too heavily despite facing a non-MLS opponent. Some players who could use the minutes, like Opare, Moreno, Harkes, and Mullins, seem like solid bets, and United seems likely to leave David Ousted out in order to meet the Open Cup’s limit of five international players in the gameday 18. Still, there should be plenty of firepower on the field, with two from Stieber, Asad, and Acosta likely to start and play for at least an hour.
Projected North Carolina starting 11: (4141) - Alex Tambakis; DJ Taylor, Connor Tobin, Michael Harrington, Peabo Doue; Graham Smith; Steven Miller, Marcel Kandziora, Kyle Bekker, Austin da Luz; Daniel Rios
Coming off of a game just three days ago, Colin Clarke may opt to rotate more heavily than Olsen will. Wingers Dre Fortune and Bernhard Luxbacher and strikers Marios Lomis and/or Donovan Ewolo are solid bets to start if that’s the case.
Available TV: None
What do we have to say about it?: As mentioned before, we checked in at United’s training session yesterday, dissected NCFC’s potential lineup, and talked about this game during the first segment of Filibuster. We’ll have a post with a different angle on United’s lineup later this morning.
What are you drinking?: I’m making yet another trek out to my second home, so no beers for me. Thinking it’ll be a cold brew coffee or Slurpee on the way in, and then press box bottled water from there.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos cup run!