A win and a road draw against two fellow Eastern Conference sides is probably a good enough start for D.C. United, but for the club to fulfill their lofty ambitions for 2019, consistency is key. Real Salt Lake, whose approach is not at all dissimilar to United’s, should provide another stern test, but the Black-and-Red are supposed to be the kind of top-tier team that wins this kind of game at home. That only happens if United can build on what they’ve started, and doing so means frustrating a potent RSL attack.
Key player: Wayne Rooney
We got all the way to week 3 before going with Wazza in this space, which is something of an achievement given that he’s Wayne friggin’ Rooney. Today, United needs to get Rooney a bit more involved around the box in terms of moves ending with him. The majority of the Black-and-Red’s attacks have involved Rooney at some point, but it’s probably a good thing to have your most talented finisher applying the last touch on a more regular basis. Rooney has been playing well, but 4 shot attempts (and only 2 inside the box) after 180 minutes is not ideal.
United shouldn’t be trying to force the ball to Rooney, but they do need to break defenses open from different angles to really break out and be the attacking team we know they can be. Thus far in 2019, they’ve largely been creating chances for someone running on from deep, or an angled run from out wide. If they can keep that up while mixing in some cutbacks from the endline, or slipping balls to Rooney from zone 14, they’re going to see more of their best looks fall to the player most likely to bury them.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm 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
There’s really no reason to expect any change to the starting lineup, or to the gameday 18. The results and performances have been good, and the only change as far as anyone’s availability is that Earl Edwards Jr. picking up a groin injury. Donovan Pines, Akeem Ward, and Antonio Bustamante are on loan tonight with Loudoun United, who face Memphis 901 FC.
Projected RSL starting 11: (4231) - Nick Rimando; Brooks Lennon, Marcelo Silva, Nedum Onuoha, Aaron Herrera; Everton Luiz, Kyle Beckerman; Jefferson Savarino, Damir Kreilach, Albert Rusnak; Corey Baird
The front four could shuffle up, with Savarino on the left, Baird on the right, Rusnak in the middle, and Kreilach up top. Mike Petke could also go with new DP striker Sam Johnson, who has only been a mid-second half sub so far as he gets acclimated to how RSL wants to play.
Referee: Dave Gantar
Available TV: None in the DMV.
Available streaming: FloSports for those inside the geofence (are you in there? Find out here!), ESPN+ for everyone else
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: Brian Dunseth joined us on Filibuster to give us an up-to-date look at RSL, predicted the same D.C. lineup that has started both games thus far, and had a chat with Arriola about how the last USMNT camp had an impact on his start to 2019. Opposition 11 and our predictions for tonight’s scoreline are coming up later this morning.
What are you drinking?: Looks like the press box is going to be open, and temperatures will be somewhere in the 40s with a breeze, so I’m going with coffee.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos continued home dominance!