D.C. United is looking to end their longest winless streak since opening Audi Field last July as they host the Chicago Fire tonight. It would be unfair to say that the Black-and-Red have been outright bad in May, but despite doing enough to stay atop the Eastern Conference, they haven’t really impressed (particularly in the attack) in quite a while. Facing a Fire team that only has one loss in their last five outings, United needs to offer something more going forward than just hoping Wayne Rooney will figure it out on his own.
Key player: Marquinhos Pedroso
The offense isn’t the only concern. It’s been a rough couple of games for United’s most recent signing...or at least, there have been a rough few plays at the back post in the midst of otherwise respectable games, and the Black-and-Red are paying dearly for it. In Houston, Pedroso lost Tommy McNamara for the Dynamo’s winner; over the weekend, he had Juan Agudelo marked tightly, but didn’t have any physical leverage and got stiff-armed out of the way on New England’s goal.
Chicago may not appear to be a particularly tough opponent to host, but with a powerful target in CJ Sapong — who has a long history of causing United fits — and plenty of attacking talent, they’re certainly not a team that lacks for runners joining the attack. That back post defense may end up being key against Sapong, Nemanja Nikolic, and the rest of the Fire’s attack (which has two more goals than United’s in one fewer game).
If United gets the job done at the back, they’re probably going to win this game against a Chicago side that tends to give away bad goals. However, lately D.C. has been guilty of that very same problem, and if they do so again tonight, we’re possibly on course for another unsatisfactory result.
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, Marquinhos Pedroso; Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno; Ulises Segura, Luciano Acosta, Lucas Rodriguez; Wayne Rooney
Bench: Chris Seitz, Jalen Robinson, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Chris McCann, Zoltan Stieber, Griffin Yow, Quincy Amarikwa
Paul Arriola is still suspended, which is bad news. On the good news front, Antonio Bustamante was quietly moved up to questionable on the injury report, but realistically his return from action will be on loan with Loudoun.
Ben Olsen could rotate, but the difference between 2 days rest during last week’s bad scheduling and the 3 days United has going into this one is pretty important from a physiological standpoint.
Projected Chicago starting 11: (4231) - Kenneth Kronholm; Johan Kappelhof, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Francisco Calvo, Jorge Corrales; Dax McCarty, Mo Adams; Aleksandar Katai, Djordje Mihailovic, Przemyslaw Frankowski; CJ Sapong
Predicting what Veljko Paunovic is going to do is kind of a lost cause. The Fire have played four different formations in their last five games, and of the above list of starters, seven players can (in Paunovic’s eyes, at least) play multiple positions. There are also plenty of wild cards, like big acquisition Nico Gaitan, who despite being called “week to week” a few days ago was upgraded to questionable. Or, maybe there are oddities like Raheem Edwards, who was sent out on loan for international spot reasons, then recalled to make his first start in MLS in 2019 just this past weekend.
Rather than go into every possibility, let’s stick with the most likely outcome. If Gaitan starts, he’ll be the no. 10, with Mihailovic probably dropping into Adams’ spot. Brandt Bronico could also start over Adams, while Edwards or Calvo could start at left back over Corrales, who has never convinced. Nikolic was benched on the weekend, but it’s unclear whether that’s about performance or simply rotating ahead of this game.
Referee: Armando Villarreal
Available TV: None in the DMV.
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: We have plenty of information on the Fire on yesterday’s episode of Filibuster, and our look at United without Arriola is still valid for another game. Opposition 11 is questionable due to time constraints, but hopefully it’ll get out before game time.
What are you drinking?: Given that it’ll be in the 90s until pre-game storms drop the temperature, I’m going to be aggressively pounding press box bottled water. However, on my way in, it’ll probably be time for an iced coffee or cold brew.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos attacking rebirth!
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