D.C. United has historically dominated the Atlantic Cup, but in recent years the New York Red Bulls have made up quite a bit of ground. United hasn’t beaten the former MetroStars in five straight meetings, and over the last five years D.C. has gone 4W-5D-10L (-10 goal difference) in the series. It’s gross, it’s unconscionable, and none of us should stand for it.
Tonight, United gets the chance to push the series back in the direction it needs to go in, but they also have other concerns. The Black-and-Red are staring at a 14 point gap between them and the final playoff spot in the East, and the only way to climb back up the table and make a real go of this season is to win. Not draw, not lose with honor...win. The pressure is on, as will be the case for the rest of the season.
Key player: Luciano Acosta
The Red Bulls have based their entire season around being stingy defensively, and their goals against (both as a total and in goals per game) is the best in the league. Their ability to get numbers around the ball is the key, and but it comes with a risk: any extra numbers to the ball mean giving up spaces elsewhere.
Acosta has to exploit those spaces with his passing and creativity, and he’s going to have to break the pressure by using his dribbling ability. Lucho loves to use that to entertain, but tonight it plays a really important tactical purpose. If Acosta is able to draw extra defenders in but still get an accurate pass away, United will be able to carve out chances regularly. If not, though, this game will get choppy, which is right in NYRB’s wheelhouse this year.
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, Jalen Robinson, Junior Moreno, Russell Canouse, Ian Harkes, Bruno Miranda, Wayne Rooney
Based on having three full days between Atlanta and tonight, I think we see very little rotation from Ben Olsen. The only change I suspect we’ll see is Mattocks starting over Rooney, who will still probably play 35 or so minutes in this scenario. There could also be a move made at defensive midfield, as Durkin’s skill set is more suited to the all-out defensive approach Colorado will bring on the weekend, though it’s not clear whether Canouse or Moreno would get the start if that were to happen.
Projected Red Bulls starting 11: (4231) - Luis Robles; Michael Murillo, Tim Parker, Aaron Long, Kemar Lawrence; Marc Rzatkowski, Tyler Adams; Alex Muyl, Kaku, Daniel Royer; Bradley Wright-Phillips
Save for possible rotation in the back, the real question is which two from Rzatkowski, Muyl, and Davis will start. Adams and Rzatkowski can both play on the right, which complicates things here a bit, but other than that the team is fairly predictable. Chris Armas is not going to rotate BWP out for this one, I’m sorry to tell you.
Referee: Armando Villarreal
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 do we have to say about it?: We’ll have predictions and a look at NYRB later today, but until then, tide yourself over with Filibuster and some discussion of whether United should rotate a bit more than I’m expecting.
What are you drinking?: Press box bottled water, the most thrilling drink of all.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos return to dominating this rivalry!