D.C. United is aiming to build on last week’s promising start to the season, but they’ve got their work cut out for them on the road against New York City FC. NYCFC had one of MLS’s best home records in 2018, and United’s all-time record in the Bronx is rough: 0W-1D-3L, and they’ve given up 11 goals in the process. United also hasn’t won an Eastern Conference road game in 23 months, a problem they have to fix if their trophy-winning aspirations are going to pan out this year.
Key player: Leonardo Jara
I thought Jara’s contributions to United’s attack were outstanding last week. His passing is at a level more often seen in attacking midfielders, and his ability to pick dangerous spots when getting forward put Atlanta off-balance throughout the game.
This week, the assignment is a bit different: NYCFC is probably going to play an actual wide player, and Alexandru Mitrita has looked like he’s going to do some damage this year after some folks (me included) initially looked at his resume and his nearly eight-digit transfer fee and scoffed. The Romanian international is unpredictable, very technically gifted, and every shot he hits cutting inside onto his right foot is a potential goal.
In other words, it’s Jara’s defensive work that will be put to the test tonight. Yankee Stadium doesn’t offer as much room to get out on the overlap, and the uncomfortably close confines often mean more individual defensive challenges than a normal game. Jara needs to ace that test for United to avoid getting into a road shootout with a team that has the firepower to win that way.
Location: Yankee Stadium (The Bronx, NY)
Kickoff time: 3:00pm 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, Jalen Robinson, Chris McCann, Chris Durkin, Ulises Segura, Zoltan Stieber, Quincy Amarikwa
With United’s roster having plenty of open spots, and three players going on loan in last night’s Loudoun United match, Ben Olsen has 19 players available for 18 spots, so this one is pretty straightforward. Canouse apparently missed training Thursday, but it sounds like that was a maintenance day more than anything.
Projected NYCFC starting 11: (4231) - Sean Johnson; Anton Tinnerholm, Maxime Chanot, Alexander Callens, Ben Sweat; Alexander Ring, Ebenezer Ofori; Jesus Medina, Maxi Moralez, Alexandru Mitrita; Valentin Castellanos
This could go a few different ways, as Domè Torrent has used a 433 and a 442 diamond at times, and has the personnel to do both. Earlier this week I expected a 433, but I’ve had a rethink. Today, I imagine he’ll sacrifice young defensive midfielder James Sands to get a true forward on the field after using Moralez as his lone “forward” in last week’s draw with Orlando. However, we could see that repeated here, or Mitrita pushed up with Castellanos and Medina dropped for Sands in a diamond.
Referee: Nima Saghafi
Available TV: None if you’re in the DMV. Elsewhere, the game is on the YES Network.
Available streaming: FloFC, and ESPN+ for those outside the blackout radius (this list is an old guess based on past streaming deals. We have asked, but don’t yet have a solid answer about where the geofence really is, so today we might all learn something)
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: We’re feeling some kind of non-loss for United today, while I tried to sort out the various thoughts in Torrent’s head with a projected NYCFC lineup. Earlier this week, Filibuster got gully with the Cooligans in talking over what to expect in this game.
What are you drinking?: Pretty sure the only beer I have left is Sam Adams, so it sounds like I’ll be having a Sam Adams
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos first road win in ages!