Today, after 22+ years, 13 trophies, and years in the doldrums as a club, D.C. United is hosting a game in a place of their own. Audi Field makes its debut today, as does (in all likelihood) former Manchester United and England star Wayne Rooney, as the Black-and-Red take on the Vancouver Whitecaps. 8,121 days after their first-ever home match at RFK Stadium, United will walk out onto the pitch on Buzzard Point looking to start a new era as a club in the best manner possible.
Key player: Wayne Rooney
Look, from a tactical perspective, I’d probably go with a center back or central midfielder due to the necessity of winning second balls against the Whitecaps and their long-ball based attack. Or, maybe I’d go with Oniel Fisher, who will be trying to contain Alphonso Davies, the gifted young Whitecaps winger. Those are United’s biggest concerns as far as limiting the visitors.
But realistically, the player people are going to be talking about regardless of how he does is Rooney. How far along is he fitness-wise? Can he handle a hot summer night in the District? What kind of understanding has he built up with teammates after barely a week’s worth of training sessions? What does his inclusion in the team mean for an attack that was doing alright without him?
If the answers to these questions are largely positive, it could be a good night for United against a VWFC side that has the joint-third worst defensive record in MLS (37 goals against in 19 matches).
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm 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, Kofi Opare, Jalen Robinson, Russell Canouse, Ian Harkes, Bruno Miranda, Wayne Rooney
United is fitter than they’ve been in months, with Arriola and Mora likely to return to the starting 11 and both Opare and Canouse both no longer on the injury report at all. As for the big question of whether Rooney starts: I suspect that United would have given him a start and subbed him off at halftime if not for a weather forecast that figures to be about 90 degrees at kickoff. Instead, look for him to come in for the final 30 minutes or so.
Projected Vancouver starting 11: (442) - Brian Rowe; Jake Nerwinski, Jose Aja, Doneil Henry, Marcel de Jong; Jordon Mutch, Efrain Juarez, Felipe, Alphonso Davies; Yordy Reyna, Kei Kamara
Carl Robinson has been chopping and changing at a few positions, but having flown from the Pacific coast to face a team on a big occasion, I suspect he goes for his most defensively-oriented lineup. It is possible that normal starters Kendall Waston and Stefan Marinovic (both questionable) return to the 11 in place of Aja and Rowe, respectively. Goal-scoring winger Cristian Techera is out suspended.
Referee: Hilario Grajeda
Available TV: Local - NewsChannel 8 and regional affiliates (check the link for the over-the-air alternate channel in your area), including CW Richmond in RVA.
Canada - TSN1
United Kingdom - Sky Sports Football
Available streaming: ESPN+ for those outside the blackout radius (you might want to check that against this from MLS, which checks your zip code against the blackout list)
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: We normally write a lot, but this week has been particularly busy. We looked into Rooney’s status for tonight’s game at training, previewed the match and discussed the vibe around the team on Filibuster, looked into the possibilities of how United lines up with Rooney in the fold, (mostly) predicted a win, and even gave you a heads up about the food at the stadium. We’ll have a deeper look at Vancouver’s lineup most likely in the early afternoon.
What are you drinking?: It’s going to be 90 and sunny at kickoff, so a lot of water. Look after yourselves amid the celebratory drinks, fam.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos new home!