After the utterly stunning turn of events that saw Wayne Rooney turn a potentially crushing D.C. United draw (or even a loss) into one of the team’s most famous wins of all time, the Black-and-Red have to get back to work quickly. The Portland Timbers are in town, and despite major offseason changes, PTFC has lost just twice in their last 19 games. Both teams have big games coming on the weekend, but for United, there’s no room to leave any points on the table, short rest or not.
Key player: Bill Hamid
Responding to a question about whether Hamid would start tonight, Ben Olsen downplayed the chances of United’s first homegrown player immediately taking over after Sunday’s win. “We’ve gotta get a couple training [sessions] under his belt. He just got here. It’s a new backline...we’ve tweaked some things that we’re about,” said United’s longtime head coach.
However, yesterday he told Steve Goff that Hamid would start, so it looks like the lead-up time required wasn’t that great after all. Hamid will be in front of familiar fans and wearing a familiar shirt, but he’ll likely be behind a defense with 2-3 new starters, in a new building, playing for a United team that is more attack-minded than any version Hamid had in front of him in the past.
That’s a lot to sort out in maybe four training sessions, especially as Monday’s practice was mostly about recovery for those that started against Orlando. Portland’s vaunted counter-attack is a big test to even the most solid goalkeeper/defense relationships, so Hamid’s going to have to hit the ground running tonight.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4141) - Bill Hamid; Oniel Fisher, Kofi Opare, Steve Birnbaum, Vytas; Chris Durkin; Ulises Segura, Russell Canouse, Luciano Acosta, Yamil Asad; Darren Mattocks
Bench: David Ousted, Frederic Brillant, Joseph Mora, Junior Moreno, Paul Arriola, Zoltan Stieber, Wayne Rooney
That’s five changes. We know about Hamid getting the start, while the other four (including a debut for Vytas against his old team) are all down to there being just two days to recover from Sunday’s preposterous game. Sunday’s game against the New England Revolution is the more essential game left this week, so look for Olsen to expect players like Segura and Durkin to go the full 90. We might also see Ian Harkes get a shot in this one, which would probably mean giving a regular starter the night off.
With Portland’s counter-attacking style, we may also see United drop Canouse in alongside Durkin in a fashion similar to what we saw in the recent match at Montreal.
Projected Portland starting 11: (4321) - Jeff Attinella; Zarek Valentin, Larrys Mabiala, Julio Cascante, Marco Farfan; Andres Flores, Diego Chara, Andy Polo; Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco; Dairon Asprilla
This is a guess at a Portland team that, between a cross-country flight and having another game on this coming Saturday, is also going to rotate. This would reflect 3 changes: Farfan replacing Alvas Powell (with Valentin moving to right back), Flores for David Guzman (with Chara moving into the anchor role), and Polo for striker Samuel Armenteros, who reportedly has a knock to his knee. It also means a shift to the 4321 after going with a 442 diamond over the weekend.
However, Giovanni Savarese is very willing to make alterations for tactical reasons, and we could see a different formation or different players (including new signing Tomas Conechny, a young attacker poised to make his debut).
Referee: Robert Sibiga
Available TV: WJLA 24/7 News (this is the new name for 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 are you drinking?: It’ll be hot and sunny today, so it’ll probably be iced coffee on my way in and pressbox bottled water throughout the game itself.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos winning on Wednesday!