D.C. United’s first-ever Audi Field friendly against European opposition is tonight, as they host La Liga’s Real Betis on Buzzard Point. Los Verdiblancos finished 10th in the Spanish top flight this past season, which for Betis ended just this past weekend with a win at Real Madrid. With the Black-and-Red having a game on turf in a few days, it’s a chance for some players who haven’t gotten much time this year to build their fitness and possibly push for more chances going forward.
Key player: Zoltan Stieber
It feels like the clock is ticking on Stieber’s time in the District. His salary is the second-highest on the team, and despite being an attacking player he hasn’t had a goal or an assist in 14 appearances dating back to August 19 of last year (that’s 649 minutes of play). But United can’t just write Stieber off, as a) he’s still a talented player, b) he’s still on the roster, which could use some auxiliary attacking threats, and c) there are no guarantees that they can find a buyer or get ownership to buy him out this summer.
With that in mind, a game like this is potentially very helpful. The pressure is off, it’s a near-certainty that Stieber will play major minutes, and what better way to rebuild lost confidence than scoring against a team from La Liga? When you’re in a slump like Stieber has been, one play can go a long way to getting you back on track, and whether he stays or goes later this year, United needs him back in form.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Chris Seitz; Akeem Ward, Jalen Robinson, Steven Birnbaum, Marquinhos Pedroso; Junior Moreno, Chris McCann; Paul Arriola, Zoltan Stieber, Griffin Yow; Quincy Amarikwa
Bench: Earl Edwards Jr., Bill Hamid, Leonardo Jara, Collin Verfurth, Frederic Brillant, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Russell Canouse, Bryang Kayo, Ulises Segura, Conor Presley, Lucas Rodriguez, Luciano Acosta, Wayne Rooney
Emily Olsen reported that Verfurth was with the first team at training yesterday, so he’s a solid bet to be included. Speaking to B&RU on Sunday, Richie Williams didn’t deny that there would be call-ups (plural) from Loudoun, but the players getting that call? Can’t say for sure. Kayo and Presley are guesses on our part.
Why Pedroso and Birnbaum? That’s a relationship that can use more competitive reps, and tonight is a little different than just playing in training. It’s hard to imagine Birnbaum playing more than 45 minutes, though, and there’s a chance he doesn’t play at all. Predicting lineups for friendlies is a path towards being wrong.
Elsewhere, look for Arriola (who is unavailable for the trip to New England this weekend) and Moreno (just to get him back in the swing of things) to get real minutes. Odoi-Atsem will probably see 30-45 minutes, as should Edwards. Rooney and Acosta might make cameos, as teams might stop scheduling friendlies here if they’re playing a group like the one that faced Olimpia last year.
Available TV: None in the DMV.
Available streaming: FloSports for those inside the geofence (are you in there? Find out here!).
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What are you drinking?: Probably the standard press box bottled water on what figures to be a great night (lower 70s, no rain in the forecast) to be outside.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos no injuries!