D.C. United is on an injury-influenced run of poor form, and if they’re going to bounce back, they’ve got to do it in their least favorite venue. The Columbus Crew have utterly dominated the recent history when United heads to Ohio, with D.C. going 0W-3D-8L in their last 11 trips, scouring just 5 times while conceding 22. United’s last win in Columbus came in August of 2007, with Fred and Luciano Emilio scoring the goals. Yes, it’s been that long.
Still, the Crew are not exactly in great form themselves, having lost two in a row. They’re even coming off of a similar result, losing at home despite facing a team that was winless coming in. The winner of this game (if there is one) will be in first place in the East at the end of the night, but for both teams it feels far more like tonight is about stopping the rot.
Key player: Lucas Rodriguez
Much has been made of Luciano Acosta’s diminished recent form, and everyone knows Wayne Rooney can’t entirely carry this team on his own, but a big factor for United is giving teams someone else to worry about. Rodriguez has played his part in D.C.’s early successes, but against NYCFC he was unable to really make an impact on the game. That helped the Pigeons devote most of their resources to making life difficult for Acosta and Rooney, and from there United lacked ideas.
It’s a quick turnaround, but United needs something more from Rodriguez (and from Paul Arriola, and the rest of the supporting cast). We know what Rodriguez can bring to the table. He’s been the Black-and-Red’s best threat on the dribble this season, and in a game where United is likely to be playing on the counter, that skill is going to be huge. For United to get a win in Columbus, it’s almost a given that Rodriguez is going to have to produce a performance similar to what we saw out of him in Colorado.
Location: Mapfre Stadium (Columbus, OH)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (3421) - Bill Hamid; Jalen Robinson, Donovan Pines, Steven Birnbaum; Leonardo Jara, Chris Durkin, Junior Moreno, Paul Arriola; Lucas Rodriguez, Luciano Acosta; Wayne Rooney
Bench: Chris Seitz, Frederic Brillant, Akeem Ward, Ulises Segura, Zoltan Stieber, Griffin Yow, Quincy Amarikwa
I have a hunch that United will go back to the formation we saw in Colorado and play out of a low block (particularly after watching Portland turn a low block into a win at this venue on the weekend). That would mean Robinson and Pines come in for Brillant and Segura in the exchange. I also think that, with this quick turnaround, we’re more likely than not to see Ward get his MLS debut off the bench as a wingback (he should be fine playing that role).
However, Ben Olsen could be eyeing up further rotation. For example, starting Amarikwa, moving Rooney underneath, and resting one of Acosta or Rodriguez feels entirely possible.
Projected Columbus starting 11: (4231) - Zack Steffen; Hector Jimenez, Jonathan Mensah, Gaston Sauro, Waylon Francis; Wil Trapp, Artur; Pedro Santos, Federico Higuain, Robinho; Gyasi Zardes
Caleb Porter may look to rotate here and there, but the Crew have the extra day’s rest and didn’t have to travel, so we’ll probably see their best 11 or something very close to it. One rotation possibility: Josh Williams starting at center back over Sauro, whose history of knee injuries occasionally necessitates taking a game off. We could also see Justin Meram, whose history against DCU is unfortunately full of goals, starting over Santos as the Crew navigate their own crowded week.
Referee: Ismail Elfath
Available TV: None in the DMV.
Available streaming: FloSports for those inside the geofence (are you in there? Find out here!). For everyone else, ESPN+ (subscribe via that link, & your friends at B&RU get some cash!).
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: Our predictions are up now, and we’ll have opposition 11 for you sometime around 1pm.
What are you drinking?: Pineapple margarita with homemade cilantro simple syrup and Patron silver. I don’t know if this is going to be a good game, but I do know I can make a good drink.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos finally winning in Columbus!
Black and Red United has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Black and Red United and SB Nation may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our guiding principles.