D.C. United takes on the Vancouver Whitecaps this Saturday, and for the first time they have Wayne Rooney available and for the first time they will be playing at Audi Field. His availability will cause a cascade of choices throughout Ben Olsen’s lineup, but I think that those choices will be deferred for a week. I think that Rooney will make a mid-second half substitute appearance, but the chance of him starting is non-zero.
Without Rooney starting, the lineup will look fairly similar to what we have seen recently (at least when everyone is healthy). Darren Mattocks will lead the line, with a midfield of Zoltan Stieber, Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta, and Yamil Asad, all playing in front of Chris Durkin. Joseph Mora, Frederic Brillant, and Steve Birnbaum will all start, and I think that Jalen Robinson should be given a shot to start over Oniel Fisher if Mora is starting at left back. I don’t think Russell Canouse will go 90 minutes quite yet, but the easiest place to slot him in would be for Durkin, due to the emergence of Paul Arriola as a central midfielder.
But when Rooney comes on, we could get a view into Ben Olsen’s thinking of his team going forward. I think that Zoltan Stieber and Luciano Acosta are the two most likely players to make way, and a different formation results depending on which one is subbed off.
Luciano Acosta coming off could lead to something like a flat 4-4-2 (or even a bucket), with Paul Arriola and Chris Durkin operating in the middle of the field, springing Yamil Asad and Zoltan Stieber down the wings to feed Rooney and Mattocks. I am a noted Bob Bradley fan, and this formation could take good advantage of the players currently on this roster (especially if they get a fullback in this transfer window).
Zoltan Stieber coming off could lead to more of a 4-3-3 or to a 4-1-3-2. In the former, Mattocks and Yamil Asad would play as the wide forwards flanking Rooney, and a midfield of Durkin, Paul Arriola, and Luciano Acosta would support them.
A diamond midfield is also possible, with Durkin at the base, Acosta at the tip, and Asad and Arriola as the shuttelers, all beneath the front two of Mattocks and Rooney. Out of these three options, the bucket 4-4-2 and the diamond 4-4-2 entice me the most.
Or, Olsen could do a straight swap of Rooney for Mattocks, but I would like to see the two forwards play together. What do you want to see Ben Olsen do for the first game at Audi Field?