D.C. United will be looking to dust themselves off and get back on track tonight as they host the Montreal Impact. United’s last outing, a dispiriting 4-0 home loss to LAFC, saw them lose Wayne Rooney to a red card while also losing their unbeaten record. The Impact come to town missing a star of their own in the form of Ignacio Piatti, so they’d probably be quite happy to turn this game into a scrap. The Black-and-Red will be eager to prove the loss was just a bad night at the office, they’re going to have to break down an obstinate, savvy opponent.
Key player: Luciano Acosta
No one has any real questions about Acosta’s commitment even as transfer rumors swirl, but there is reason to wonder whether he’s lost a bit of an edge. He’s been pretty decent so far this year, and the underlying numbers seem alright, but nonetheless that’s a step down from his Best 11 dominance in 2018. We haven’t gotten the best version of Lucho to start the season.
Tonight, United probably needs the best version of Lucho. First of all, Rooney’s absence means every attacking player has to step their game up. Secondly, Montreal’s gameplan is going to be about sitting very deep, congesting the middle, and playing on the counter. How do you break down a team like that? With dribbling, quick combinations, and close control in tight spaces. That’s Acosta’s game, and he’s going to need to bring it tonight for United to open this game up and take the full three points.
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, Chris McCann; Chris Durkin, Junior Moreno; Ulises Segura, Luciano Acosta, Lucas Rodriguez; Quincy Amarikwa
Bench: Chris Seitz, Jalen Robinson, Akeem Ward, Russell Canouse, Paul Arriola, Zoltan Stieber, Griffin Yow
There’s a lot of guesswork here, as United’s depth is being tested in two spots where they don’t have a lot of options. It’s tempting to go for a galaxy brain take in replacing Rooney (my personal version of this was Rodriguez up top with Stieber on the wing), but realistically, Amarikwa looked pretty decent in the context of a lost game on Saturday, so he seems very likely to be the starter here. McCann, who only played 57 minutes against LAFC, should start again, but could we see Ward for him (or for Jara)? Perhaps.
As for Yow being in the 18, it’s possibly a reach, but Antonio Bustamante has a knock, and there’s no one left in terms of attacking players. Olsen could still choose Donovan Pines, but that would leave him with just two attacking options to bring into the game. That feels...not great.
And then there’s the rotation factor, which we mentioned with the fullbacks but also has to be considered elsewhere. Durkin and Segura could come in for Canouse and Arriola, or for Moreno and Rodriguez, or for no one.
Projected Montreal starting 11: (433) - Evan Bush; Bacary Sagna, Zakaria Diallo, Jukka Raitala, Dan Lovitz; Micheal Azira, Samuel Piette, Saphir Taïder; Orji Okwonkwo, Anthony Jackson-Hamel, Harry Novillo
Without Ignacio Piatti (injury) and Maxi Urruti (suspension), and with the quick turnaround between games, I’m leaning towards Remi Garde not rotating heavily. If this lineup is right, they’d be making just one change, with Jackson-Hamel coming in for Urruti.
However, it would not count as a major shock if he made some changes, and that brings plenty of variables into play. Youngster Zachary Brault-Guillard could play right back if the aging Sagna needs a break, while Victor Cabrera could be brought back in at center back with Raitala playing a fullback role. In the attack, Mathieu Choinière (remember him?) and/or the speedy Clement Bayiha could come in, with Okwonkwo possibly playing centrally.
Referee: Chris Penso
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?: Ben proposed some more radical changes for United’s lineup than I did, and later this morning we’ll have predictions and Opposition 11.
What are you drinking?: On the way in, maybe some iced green tea. In the press box, bottled water from the press box cooler.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos return to form!