This was supposed to be the biggest week to date for D.C. United in 2018, and so far it’s going swimmingly. Wayne Rooney has proven that he’s a bonafide star, and United has posted both a necessary win (3-2 over Orlando) and an impressive win (4-1 over Portland). Today’s game, however, is the big one, as the New England Revolution are the team directly in front of the Black-and-Red in the standings.
A loss would see United fall 8 points behind the Revs, and their much-discussed games in hand advantage would suddenly not be enough by itself to see them above two of their foes in the East (along with New England, the Philadelphia Union would probably feel pretty OK with a United defeat today). A win, though, and United would trail the Revolution by 2 points while keeping the visitors mired in a weeks-long slump.
Key player: Russell Canouse
Brad Friedel has set the Revs on a new course as a team that high-presses against everyone, no matter what. That helped them get off to a good start this season, but that unwavering philosophy is also contributing to a run that has seen them win just twice since mid-May. Teams are finding the cracks in their press, and though the Revs usually get themselves on the scoreboard, they almost always give up more goals than they get for themselves.
That brings us to Canouse, who will be receiving the ball under pressure throughout this game. The task sounds simple: know where the pressure is coming from, find passing options before the ball arrives, move it along quickly. The problem is that doing all that is one of the major challenges in this game of ours, and Canouse is going to have to be reliably good in that department all game long.
On top of that, he’s got to be able to track runs from the midfield, as the Revs are a mobile, risk-taking team off the ball. They’ll throw numbers forward, and at the moment at least, their most dangerous attacker is Diego Fagundez, who will be right in Canouse’s part of the field all game long.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern (though kickoff is reportedly at 7:55)
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4141) - Bill Hamid; Oniel Fisher, Kofi Opare, Steve Birnbaum, Vytas; Russell Canouse; Zoltan Stieber, Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta, Yamil Asad; Wayne Rooney
Bench: David Ousted, Frederic Brillant, Joseph Mora, Chris Durkin, Junior Moreno, Ulises Segura, Darren Mattocks
Yes, back to the 4141. 4231 made sense against Portland and Orlando due to how deep those two were sitting, but the Revs are a high-press, aggressive team. The need to hold possession in deeper areas to draw them out isn’t there. That means a recall for Stieber, who replaces Moreno, and a first start for Vytas to freshen things up in the back.
Now, if United gets out in front, there’s a different reason to go to 4231: good old fashioned defensive security. That would probably mean Durkin or Moreno in for Arriola, but first things first: fighting fire with fire against the Revs may seem counter-intuitive, but they’ve given up 2+ goals in each of their last 5 games, picking up just one point in the process. They want a track meet? I say give them what they want.
Projected New England starting 11: (4231) - Matt Turner; Andrew Farrell, Antonio Delamea, Jalil Anibaba, Brandon Bye; Wilfried Zahibo, Luis Caicedo; Juan Agudelo, Diego Fagundez, Cristian Penilla; Teal Bunbury
This may get presented as a 442 in some places, but in practice the Revs play a very standard 4231. The only real question mark is at left back, where Bye (a rookie right back who was an attacker in college) has started two straight. Claude Dielna (a natural center back) could get recalled, but appears to be in the doghouse. Gabriel Somi, the only natural left back available, is even deeper in said doghouse.
Referee: Chris Penso
Available TV: Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes
Available streaming: Fox Sports Go, Fox Soccer Match Pass
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: We did a second episode of Filibuster this week to make sure this game gets covered. Predictions are coming up in just a little while, followed by Opposition 11.
What are you drinking?: As long as it keeps being above 80% humidity every single time I go to Buzzard Point, the answer is going to be pretty much the same: cold brew coffee on my way in, MLS sponsor-branded bottled water in the press box.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos 9 points this week!