The preseason comes to a close tonight for D.C. United, as they take on the Montreal Impact in their final warm-up for the 2019 season. The stakes at the Suncoast Invitational are just a bit lower than the last meeting between these teams, a 5-0 United win that propelled the Black-and-Red up the standings while also playing a major role in IMFC’s failure to make the playoffs.
That said, this game should be a very good test, as the Impact have conceded just one goal in four preseason outings. With both teams starting their regular season next weekend, it’s probable that we’ll see most key players from both sides playing 75-90 minutes, making this game a more serious indicator of where both teams are as the games get real.
Key player: Wayne Rooney (sort of)
Rooney has looked sharp enough so far in the preseason, scoring against the Union and having a pretty great goal against the Tampa Bay Rowdies taken back due to VAR. His connection with Luciano Acosta appears to be intact (that was Lucho with that great pass to set up Rooney’s goal).
So why has United’s irresistible attack from last season only been able to put up a goal a game in the preseason? The simple version is that United hasn’t been all that good at getting Rooney (or Acosta) enough of the ball. When we’ve seen Rooney getting his proper share of touches, the attack has been humming, but the midfield hasn’t been particularly adept at making sure that happens.
Every team United plays this season is going to commit lots of resources to preventing Rooney (and Acosta) from seeing the ball, and United needs to make sure they know how to solve that problem. So far in the preseason, they’ve been merely adequate at that, and we’re eight days from when “adequate” isn’t going to cut it.
Location: Al Lang Stadium (St. Petersburg, FL)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Bill Hamid; Akeem Ward, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Junior Moreno, Russell Canouse; Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta, Zoltan Stieber; Wayne Rooney
Bench: Chris Seitz, Earl Edwards Jr., Leonardo Jara, Jalen Robinson, Donovan Pines, Chris McCann, Chris Durkin, Bryang Kayo, Ulises Segura, Lucas Rodriguez, Griffin Yow, Quincy Amarikwa
There are two questions in my mind here: Is Jara fit enough to play some major minutes in this game? And who starts on the left wing? Stieber has gotten most of the minutes there so far in the preseason, but questions remain whether he’s a good fit both in terms of high pressing and in terms of an attack that probably has enough playmaking ability between Rooney and Acosta.
The rest of the team feels fairly settled, though Ben Olsen maybe raised an eyebrow or two in starting Robinson over Brillant on Wednesday.
Projected Montreal starting 11: (433) - Clément Diop; Bakary Sagna, Victor Cabrera, Zakaria Diallo, Dan Lovitz; Micheal Azira, Samuel Piette, Saphir Taïder; Harry Novillo, Maximiliano Urruti, Ignacio Piatti
Montreal hasn’t made too many changes, though adding the hard-working Urruti might help Piatti remain MLS’s best left winger for another year. Novillo, a globe-trotting journeyman with some uninspiring previous stops (Ligue 2, Australia, Malaysia) appears to be their replacement for Alejandro Silva, though that job could also fall to recently acquired attacker Orji Okwonkwo.
Available TV: None
Available streaming: Tampa Bay Rowdies Youtube page
What are you drinking?: I’m no longer in the grips of the cold I had earlier this week, but I’m still not absolutely at my best, so I’ll stick with this ginger green tea I found.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos putting some goals on the board!