D.C. United begins a short, difficult road trip tonight as they take on Toronto FC on the shores of Lake Ontario. Less than 72 hours after finishing up a win against Sporting KC, and barely 72 hours before they’ll kick off another game in Houston, they face an erratic TFC side. A few times this season, they’ve looked like potential contenders, but the Reds have also lost three of their last four games. However, with Jozy Altidore possibly back and the quick turnaround between games, United can’t assume that Toronto’s iffy form will make this one easy.
Key player: Wayne Rooney
You can pretty much always put Rooney down as the answer to this question and have a solid argument, but tonight it seems especially appropriate. For one, United needs to be very smart to manage this game given the short rest, and Rooney so often dictates the tone to his teammates. He’ll also be choosing when and where they press, and the Black-and-Red probably don’t want to simply stay deep for the last hour or so as they have in some recent road games. Intelligently picking when United needs to be aggressive and when they can stand off will prove vital tonight.
The other aspect is Rooney’s outstanding set piece delivery. For a potentially tired team, getting goals from dead balls is a great way to get your offensive work done on the night without having to exert a ton of energy. We certainly don’t want United to purely lean on set pieces to get through games, but it’s nice to have that option to lean on if the run of play isn’t quite panning out.
Location: BMO Field (Toronto, Ontario)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Bill Hamid; Leonardo Jara, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Marquinhos Pedroso; Chris Durkin, Russell Canouse; Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta, Lucas Rodriguez; Wayne Rooney
Bench: Chris Seitz, Jalen Robinson, Chris McCann, Akeem Ward, Ulises Segura, Zoltan Stieber, Quincy Amarikwa
Junior Moreno has departed for Venezuela after the passing of his father, which will lead to Durkin getting the start. Other than that, though, it seems likely that Ben Olsen will play more or less the same team that beat Sporting KC on Sunday night, as tonight’s game is the more important of the two road games in the next few days. If Olsen does opt to rotate anyone else in, look for Segura to step in for one of the wingers.
This is another week where it’s not hard to pick the 18. With injuries Griffin Yow still with the US under-17s, and Moreno’s absence, the only available player left out today is Earl Edwards Jr.
Projected Toronto starting 11: (442) - Quentin Westberg; Richie Laryea, Eriq Zavaleta, Chris Mavinga, Justin Morrow; Nick DeLeon, Michael Bradley, Marky Delgado, Jonathan Osorio; Alejandro Pozuelo, Jozy Altidore
There are some major variables here. The most important one is that Altidore is off the injury report, but may or may not be able to start. TFC with Altidore is a far more dangerous team, and if he can play 45 minutes, Greg Vanney should put him out from the start. Elsewhere Auro left Saturday’s loss to Philadelphia with a back problem, but could start again over Laryea at right back.
There’s also the possibility that TFC plays a 352, in which case DeLeon and Morrow are probably the wingbacks, with Delgado and Osorio to either side of Bradley in central midfield. That hinges on whether Drew Moor is actually fit enough to play, which is something of a mystery. If he’s available, he’d be between Zavaleta and Mavinga in the back three.
Referee: Drew Fischer
Available TV: None in the DMV.
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: We put together an episode of Filibuster, and I’ll have Opposition 11 for you later today.
What are you drinking?: I’m thinking of making a Paloma, so probably Patron silver, lime juice, a splash of grapefruit juice, and Q grapefruit soda.
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