D.C. United’s new era has so far only told us what we more or less already knew. This team is good enough to beat bad teams comfortably, but not good enough to hang with MLS’s top tier. Tonight against the struggling Colorado Rapids, United needs to make sure that first clause is still true, as opportunities against the league’s bottom sides aren’t going to be too common from here on out. These are points the Black-and-Red can’t afford to miss out on.
Key player: Wayne Rooney
We’ve gotten a mixed bag out of Rooney so far. Against Vancouver, he made the game look like the easiest thing in the world, bagged an assist, and generally had an instant rapport with his new teammates. In Atlanta, he was totally isolated and could do little. Against the Red Bulls mid-week, he wasn’t consistently effective, but nearly all of United’s chances came with him on the field, and he probably should have won a DOGSO red card on Tim Parker. If Yamil Asad had been able to finish like normal, he gets another assist at the least.
Tonight, against a far more defensive opponent, United needs to see the Rooney that out-thought the Whitecaps. The Rapids will sit deep and look to clog the middle, but Vancouver did the same, and Rooney made it look like he had acres to play in every time he was on the ball. That movement and that ability to play one-touch soccer so well should open up Colorado on a regular basis, but the rest of the team needs to remember how to play with Rooney. The balls in behind that we saw a few too many of against the Red Bulls are not how you get the best out of United’s new captain.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4141) - David Ousted; Jalen Robinson, Frederic Brillant, Steve Birnbaum, Oniel Fisher; Junior Moreno; Zoltan Stieber, Ian Harkes, Luciano Acosta, Yamil Asad; Wayne Rooney
Bench: Steve Clark, Joseph Mora, Chris Durkin, Russell Canouse, Ulises Segura, Dane Kelly, Darren Mattocks
Ben Olsen said he’d rotate at least somewhat for tonight, and this lineup would contain four changes: Robinson for Mora (with Fisher moving to right back), Moreno for Durkin, Harkes for the suspended Paul Arriola, and Rooney for Mattocks. The only one I’m really sure of is Rooney, as it could be Segura replacing Arriola instead. Arriola’s suspension also opens up a spot on the bench, which I’d normally think is going to Bruno Miranda. However, Miranda’s status is unclear due to United’s international roster spot crunch (we’ve asked for clarification on this). Assume he’s on loan with Richmond, though, which means a spot for Kelly.
Projected Colorado Rapids starting 11: (541) - Tim Howard; Johan Blomberg, Kortne Ford, Danny Wilson, Tommy Smith, Edgar Castillo; Giles Barnes, Jack Price, Kellyn Acosta, Sam Nicholson; Yannick Boli
Barnes is questionable, and if he can’t play (or possibly even if he can), Blomberg could play right midfield with Marlon Hairston coming in as the right wingback. Jack McBean could start up top instead of Boli, and there’s at least some small chance that this ends up being a 532 (with Nicholson moving up as a second forward).
Referee: Ramy Touchan, who has officiated just one MLS game before tonight
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’ve got predictions of victory, and we’ll have a deeper look at the Rapids lineup later this morning. We also closed out Filibuster with some discussion of Colorado’s rather unusual roster.
What are you drinking?: Since the answer of “press box water” is not going to be fun, let’s focus on what I’m going to drink on my way in. I’m leaning towards a Slurpee?
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