D.C. United knew all along that their chase of a playoff berth was going to be a close-run pursuit. However, two straight losses to Eastern Conference rivals have left the Black-and-Red reeling at precisely the wrong time, as MLS Supporters Shield favorites Atlanta United are coming to town. United is currently 9 points out of the final playoff spot, but has 4 games in hand on the 6th-placed Montreal Impact. For that to matter, they may well need to get the full three points against a side whose road record is a jaw-dropping 8-2-2.
Key player: Bill Hamid
Against the best attack in MLS, and the best goalscorer in MLS history, it’s no surprise that Hamid is our player to watch for this one. United’s defense must be organized and dialed in throughout, and even then, we can expect that Hamid will have to provide a few save-of-the-week candidates to keep United in this one. It’s the biggest challenge he’s faced since his return, and United needs him to be spectacular to take a vital three points.
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, Vytas; Chris Durkin, Russell Canouse; Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta, Zoltan Stieber; Wayne Rooney
Bench: Travis Worra, Frederic Brillant, Joseph Mora, Junior Moreno, Yamil Asad, Bruno Miranda, Darren Mattocks
Maybe the extra day of rest gives United a little more pep in their step, as the muggy, hot conditions and short rest against Philadelphia seemed to play a major part in a damaging 2-0 loss. Look for Ben Olsen to bring some fresher legs in by giving Vytas a debut and by bringing Durkin back into the starting lineup, but don’t expect major changes. Hopefully Asad is fit enough to play some part, as United badly missed his movement off the ball.
Projected Atlanta starting 11: (4231) - Brad Guzan; Julian Gressel, Michael Parkhurst, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Chris McCann; Jeff Larentowicz, Eric Remedi; Hector Villalba, Miguel Almiron, Ezequiel Barco; Josef Martinez
There’s a chance here that Tata Martino opts for caution, which would mean starting Franco Escobar at right back and moving Gressel up to the wing for either Barco or Villalba, but most likely he’ll prefer to just play an aggressive attacking lineup and see where the chips fall. Hard to blame him.
Referee: Allen Chapman
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?: Steven Streff is filling in for me with Opposition 11, so look for that later today. In the meantime, enjoy the most recent edition of Tales from Buzzard Point.
What are you drinking?: There’s a lot of booze at this beach house I’m writing from, but I haven’t chosen a drink. Bourbon seems like a strong contender.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos huge statement win!