Following an unlikely 1-1 draw with NYCFC, D.C. United starts on what will be a season-defining seven straight games at home, with Minnesota United’s visit opening the longest homestand in club history. Both clubs are badly short-handed, but the Black-and-Red have gotten a boost: two internationals have returned early, and they’re facing an opponent that has gone 18 days without a game.
On top of that, Minnesota’s road form is wretched. The Loons have the worst road record (1W-1D-11L) in MLS, and have conceded at least 2 goals in 11 straight games away from home. In eight of those games, they’ve conceded three or more times, completely undermining what is a respectable attack built around Colombian star Darwin Quintero (10 goals, 9 assists in 19 appearances).
Key player: Paul Arriola
Arriola’s choice to return and help United out could prove critical for a team that had to put a ton of work in to take a point home from the Bronx this weekend. It’s not just that this gives D.C. a natural winger after having to deploy Ian Harkes there against NYCFC, though that is definitely a plus. It’s that Arriola’s engine makes his teammates’ lives easier, because he’s always available as an option, always helping back and getting involved defensively.
Tonight, though, it’s probably more about his off-the-ball movement when United is attacking. Minnesota is well-rested to the point of being rusty, having last played nearly three weeks ago, and they’re essentially on the brink of elimination from the playoff race as things stand. Normally the Loons would try to possess regardless of venue or circumstance, but it seems likely tonight that they’re going to hunker down early and see if they can tire United out before going for the win, somewhat similarly to what Philadelphia did a little while back.
Arriola is a big part of how United solves that. With Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta surely drawing much of the attention in midfield, Arriola’s runs are going to be critical for the Black-and-Red in terms of making Minnesota pay for clustering around the stars. If he’s sharp, this game could be over early. If not, this could be a struggle.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Bill Hamid; Oniel Fisher, Kofi Opare, Steven Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Chris Durkin, Russell Canouse; Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta, Ulises Segura; Wayne Rooney
Bench: Travis Worra, Frederic Brillant, Jalen Robinson, Kevin Ellis, Ian Harkes, Dane Kelly, Darren Mattocks
After being preposterously short-handed on the weekend, Ben Olsen might have 18 players in uniform, depending on the status of Brillant (and/or Yamil Asad). Fisher is probable, so he’ll likely get rotated in at right back. Arriola and Mattocks are back from international duty, with the former sure to step into the lineup straight away. As for the latter, don’t be surprised if we see him sub in earlier than normal for either Rooney or Acosta.
Projected Minnesota starting 11: (4231) - Bobby Shuttleworth; Carter Manley, Wyatt Omsberg, Brett Kallman, Jerome Thiesson; Fernando Bob, Ibson; Miguel Ibarra, Darwin Quintero, Abu Danladi; Angelo Rodriguez
Adrian Heath is reportedly down to just 18 available players. The Loons have played a 352 in three of their last four games, but a combination of suspensions, injuries, and call-ups leave them with little option to go with one tonight. It also puts them in a bind elsewhere, as they’ll have to give an MLS debut to the tremendously named Fernando Bob, a start to Omsberg (a rookie with just 173 MLS minutes played), and a first start since April to Danladi. Former United homegrown midfielder Collin Martin will most likely appear off the bench, though Heath could play a 433 and start him, pushing Quintero wide and dropping Danladi to the bench.
Referee: Silviu Petrescu
Available TV: WJLA 24/7 and regional affiliates (check the link for the over-the-air alternate channel in your area), including CW Richmond in RVA.
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?: Filibuster digs into this game, and hopefully it won’t be too long before Opposition 11 comes out.
What are you drinking?: Iced coffee on the way in, water in the press box. That coffee is going to be critical.
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