D.C. United gets the first kicks of MLS action this Sunday, facing off against Atlanta United on national TV. This matchup pits the defending champions of the league, and a team that played in the Concacaf Champions league last night, against the hottest team of the second half of last year. It will serve as an opening statement for the entire year, and so hopefully Rooney, Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta, and the rest of the team can get off on the right foot.
Even if you haven’t been paying attention to the preseason at all, figuring out D.C. United’s lineup is a fairly easy task; this offseason was more about enhancing in a few areas rather than a complete overhaul. In goal, Bill Hamid returns and looks to regain the title of MLS’s best goalkeeper in the minds of the league-wide press; we already know that he is here. In front of him, the familiar names of Joseph Mora, Frederic Brillant, and Steve Birnbaum will occupy the back line. Leonardo Jara, on loan from Boca Juniors, will take over the right back role held last year by Oniel Fisher (re-signed but currently injured) and Nick DeLeon (sadly off to Toronto).
In the midfield, Russell Canouse and Junior Moreno will pair the defensive midfield, with Chris Durkin ready to step when if either of them get injured, are on international duty, or don’t play up to expectations. In the attacking midfield, Paul Arriola and Luciano Acosta will look to combine and create with Wayne Rooney and rekindle the explosive attack from last year. The only real question for this game is at left midfield, where Lucas Rodriguez was brought in to be another young, exciting attacker. If Ben Olsen doesn’t want to throw him in from the start for his first MLS minutes, he could go with Zoltan Stieber or Ulises Segura; either way, I expect Rogriguez to get time and to be the starter by month’s end.
On the bench, I expect to see Chris Seitz, Akeem Ward, Jalen Robinson, Chris McCann, Chris Durkin, Ulises Segura, and Zoltan Stieber. Quicy Amarikwa, a long-rumored signing that has played in the preseason for the team, has not yet completed contract negotiations and doesn’t look like he will be available for this game.
It seems fairly obvious, but what do you want to see from Ben Oolsen in this game?