No matter how you slice it, last week wasn’t exactly up to D.C. United’s standards. They bounced back moderately well from a bad home loss, but between bad news on the injury front, an inability to break a bunker without Wayne Rooney, and having to hang on for dear life to beat a weak opponent, there were question marks all around. Today against NYCFC, the job is straightforward: get back to winning ways at home, and get back to the kind of form that this team showed in the opening weeks of the season.
Key player: Steven Birnbaum
If you’ve seen New York City FC play this season, and you know about United’s attack, you probably aren’t worried about the Black-and-Red scoring goals. That side of the equation shouldn’t be too tough for United today, quite frankly. It’s the other side of the field, where the Pigeons have some really talented players that haven’t quite put it together, that will probably determine DCU’s success today.
With injuries at left back, a bit of uncertainty with regards to his center back partner, and coming off a week that saw United concede 6 goals in 3 games, Birnbaum’s ability to take charge in the back may end up being critical today. This isn’t the textbook sort of attack, either; NYCFC is far more about small, agile players than having a powerful target man or someone with raw speed up top. They’re a mental challenge more than a physical one, and if Birnbaum and the rest of the back line is up for the job, the chances of a win are very high.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 4:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Bill Hamid; Leonardo Jara, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Paul Arriola; Junior Moreno, Russell Canouse; Ulises Segura, Luciano Acosta, Lucas Rodriguez; Wayne Rooney
Bench: Chris Seitz, Donovan Pines, Jalen Robinson, Chris Durkin, Zoltan Stieber, Griffin Yow, Quincy Amarikwa
Playing it safe here, but I do think Ben Olsen is going to roll out the closest thing to a conventional team he can this week. However, could Arriola and Segura switch roles? Could Pines start again over Brillant? And could Durkin get another game? Yes to all three. I’d be less surprised by any of those three things happening than if Olsen rolled out the 3421 again, but we can’t rule that out either. Chris McCann was quietly promoted to questionable on the injury report, but based on Wednesday’s training session, I think this one’s a little too early for him.
One more thing to keep an eye on: Earl Edwards Jr. wasn’t loaned out to Loudoun for yesterday’s game, so something could be up in goal.
Projected NYCFC starting 11: (4231) - Sean Johnson; Anton Tinnerholm, Maxime Chanot, Alexander Callens, Ronald Matarrita; James Sands, Alexander Ring; Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Maxi Moralez, Alexandru Mitrita; Heber
There are numerous questions here, as NYCFC has a couple of injuries and in Domè Torrent a tinkering manager. Callens should be back after a knock, but we could see Ebenezer Ofori in the midfield, or Moralez up top, or (if he’s cleared to play) Valentin Castellanos starting over Heber, who might not have more than 45 minutes in his legs right now.
We could also see a back 5, or a back 3, or a 433, or a midfield diamond. That’s just life with Torrent in charge.
Referee: Allen Chapman
Available TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes
Available streaming: WatchESPN, ESPN+
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: Opposition 11 tried to tackle the various NYCFC lineup possibilities, while our own lineup post did the same with United. We spent the back half of Filibuster talking this game over as well. Our predictions will be on the site in a little over an hour.
What are you drinking?: Nothing more interesting than press box bottled water, but afterwards I’ll probably be having a couple beers.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos getting a win while wearing the other team’s colors for promotional reasons!