D.C. United dipped its toe into the 2019 preseason last week, seeing off Bethlehem Steel FC 1-0 despite losing Wayne Rooney to an injury early. Since then, they’ve re-incorporated Luciano Acosta after a brief sojourn to France, and gotten Paul Arriola, Russell Canouse, and Joseph Mora back from national team duty. With those players back, and Rooney apparently fit again, they take on FC Cincinnati for the first time ever tonight in Florida.
Key player: Lucas Rodriguez
Luciano Acosta is back, Rooney’s knock only kept him out for a couple sessions, and it appears we don’t have much to worry about just now from either of United’s superstars. Let’s turn our focus towards the team’s next potential star, Titi Rodriguez. In last week’s win over Bethlehem, he played the attacking midfield role underneath Rooney (and later, Shinya Kadono), but with Lucho back and ready to play, we’ll probably get to see Rodriguez out on the wing.
That’s a potentially big shift, but it’s also crucial that Rodriguez prove that he’s completely at home playing wide. If he’s more of a “capable of playing there, but...” sort of player, United is not facing a disaster (Zoltan Stieber can certainly get the job done), but they could be facing a different development track for him than we saw with Acosta.
Location: IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Bill Hamid; Leonardo Jara, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Junior Moreno, Russell Canouse; Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta, Lucas Rodriguez; Wayne Rooney
Bench: Chris Seitz, Earl Edwards Jr., Akeem Ward, Colton Storm, Donovan Pines, Jalen Robinson, Peabo Doue, Chris Durkin, Bryang Kayo, Ulises Segura, Antonio Bustamante, Zoltan Stieber, Geo Alves, Shinya Kadono, Gabe Segal, Kyle Murphy
Full strength first 11! Or at least, Ben Olsen can go that route if he wants to. There are also now more than enough players to swap out the entire lineup, and then also have backups.
I do wonder how Olsen will balance the need to get a look at Storm and Doue with the need to make sure Ward is getting enough minutes. With the numbers being what they are this time around, we may also see Segura get some minutes up top in the second half. Other than that, though, I’d expect to see the top 11 go 45, and then a second 11 play 30 minutes before the remaining trialists get peppered in for the final 15.
Projected Cincinnati starting 11: (532) - Przemyslaw Tyton; Alvas Powell, Mathieu Deplagne, Kendall Waston, Nick Hagglund, Blake Smith; Victor Ulloa, Leonardo Bertone, Fatai Alashe; Emmanuel Ledesma, Fanendo Adi
This is the lineup that they started against Colorado a few days ago, and if anything they’re probably more likely to give it another shot than get flexible. Why? Waston got himself sent off after 30 minutes, because of course he did. Still, while this lineup appears to be ultra-physical and lacking in creators, the fact is that they managed to beat the Rapids 1-0, and you can bet that Darren Mattocks (probably a halftime sub here) will be looking to bang in some goals.
Available TV: None. Still preseason.
Available streaming: None, which remains inexplicable.
What are you drinking?: Probably going for Los Morros, a Chilean pinot noir.
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