D.C. United’s season was going swimmingly until a week ago. Since then, they’ve been handed a rough loss and a snooze-inducing scoreless draw — both at home — while learning what life is like when Wayne Rooney isn’t available. They get a chance to get back on course today, though, as they head to the Rockies to take on the struggling Colorado Rapids. With a whopping 16 goals conceded to start the season, the Rapids look vulnerable, but United can only take the three points if they show marked improvement over their last two outings.
Key player: Wayne Rooney
Tuesday’s game was United’s first without Rooney since his arrival, and...well, let’s just be glad he’s back from suspension. Assuming Rooney’s illness hasn’t drained him too much to be effective at a high elevation, United will be looking for some inspiration after a couple of tough games.
Colorado has been unable to defend in and around their box all season, and when former United defender Kofi Opare was cleared to play after offseason ankle surgery, he was thrown right into the mix. Opare might have a better feel for Rooney’s tendencies than most, but United still needs to find their ace in dangerous spots and make good runs off of him. With a fullback injury crisis possibly making shutouts hard to come by, United needs to make sure they put some goals on the board today.
Location: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (Commerce City, CO)
Kickoff time: 9:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Bill Hamid; Paul Arriola, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Jalen Robinson; Junior Moreno, Russell Canouse; Ulises Segura, Luciano Acosta, Lucas Rodriguez; Wayne Rooney
Bench: Chris Seitz, Donovan Pines, Akeem Ward, Chris Durkin, Zoltan Stieber, Griffin Yow, Quincy Amarikwa
The only possible player that could rotate into this 18 is Earl Edwards Jr., and he’d have to catch a flight from Ottawa (where Loudoun United plays this afternoon) to do it. Everyone else is injured, including 5 different fullbacks! It is possible that Leonardo Jara made the flight to undergo a pre-game fitness test, which would probably see him replace Yow in the 18, but the odds are that Arriola and Robinson are both going to have to play out of position tonight.
Elsewhere, Rooney returns from suspension (and, apparently, some kind of illness), and Rodriguez is restored to a starting role after only playing a few minutes mid-week. We could end up seeing Durkin get a start here, which could allow United to better spread the game out against a very narrow Rapids side.
Projected Rapids starting 11: (4231) - Tim Howard; Keegan Rosenberry, Kofi Opare, Axel Sjöberg, Deklan Wynne; Jack Price, Kellyn Acosta; Nicolas Mezquida, Benny Feilhaber, Cole Bassett; Kei Kamara
Anthony Hudson has shown a willingness to change things up, and admittedly I’m guessing at Wynne playing left back based on a substitution choice last week. If Hudson sticks with his normal look at the position, Dillon Serna will start (giving United a very vulnerable target to attack) and Wynne would move into the middle.
The bigger change, however, hinges on Diego Rubio’s back. If the Chilean forward is fit to start, we’ll probably see a 442 diamond, with Mezquida the most likely casualty.
Referee: Ted Unkel
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?: We talked to Ward about his possible debut tonight, while Filibuster previewed this game in depth. We also looked at Ben Olsen’s possible lineup after all these fullback injuries. We’ll have a look at the Rapids lineup for you in a couple of hours after this post goes live.
What are you drinking?: I’ll be at the Maryland SoccerPlex when this game gets going, so maybe a Slurpee from the 7-11 between there and 270?
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos more road success!