D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union renew their colorful history in the U.S. Open Cup tonight, with Audi Field hosting its first-ever game in America’s knockout competition. It has been a few years, but when the Union first came to exist, U.S. Soccer’s cup draw seemed to pair these sides every time, and the matches were usually combative and tense, with red cards and extra time a regular feature.
With the Gold Cup break in place, both teams are expected to field the strongest teams they can, though absences for that tournament and other reasons mean that we’re still going to see some fairly odd teams from Ben Olsen and Jim Curtin.
Key player: Chris McCann
This is a guess, but McCann seems likely to start in central midfield today. Junior Moreno is away with Venezuela, Chris Durkin is suspended due to a red card in last year’s Open Cup, and Paul Arriola is away with the USMNT. Russell Canouse didn’t train on Monday as well, so there’s at least some reason to be concerned with his status. Olsen pretty much has to field McCann from the start here, as the only other available player with central midfield experience is Ulises Segura, who is probably going to be out on the right wing.
Against a high-pressing Union team, McCann is going to be tested at a position he hasn’t seen much time at since coming to MLS. His experience centrally goes back to his time in the English Championship and League One. Can he keep the ball moving fast enough to avoid bogging the attack down? Can he avoid turnovers? Is he up for what is probably going to be a game heavy on transition play?
Those questions need positive answers for United to get into a position to win tonight.
Hey, aren’t there usually some weird Open Cup substitution rules?: There were about a decade ago, but for the last few years it’s been just like a normal league game. However, US Soccer made a change for this year. If a game goes to extra time, a fourth substitution is allowed.
Also, in a rule that has been in place for a long time now, teams are only allowed to dress 5 internationals. For United’s purposes, that means choosing 5 players from Leonardo Jara, Joseph Mora, Junior Moreno, Marquinhos Pedroso, Lucas Rodriguez, Wayne Rooney, Ulises Segura, and Zoltan Stieber. With Mora still building his fitness back up and Moreno away, it really just means that Ben Olsen has to leave out one international.
The Union, meanwhile, have 9 internationals that are regularly part of their gameday squad, and will be short-handed enough that they’ve signed 4 Bethlehem Steel players to short-term contracts just to have some subs available today.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Bill Hamid; Leonardo Jara, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Chris Odoi-Atsem; Russell Canouse, Chris McCann; Ulises Segura, Luciano Acosta, Lucas Rodriguez; Wayne Rooney
Bench: Chris Seitz, Jalen Robinson, Akeem Ward, Antonio Bustamante, Zoltan Stieber, Griffin Yow, Quincy Amarikwa
We already mentioned Moreno, Mora, Arriola, and Durkin, but that’s not the full list of absentees. Donovan Pines is not quite fit yet, which is hopefully not going to be the case when league play resumes in a couple weeks. Throw in the international issue (personally think fullback depth means Pedroso is the player that misses out), and it’s not too hard to pick the 18.
However, with Hamid and Canouse missing training Monday under the old “no big deal” banner, I do wonder if Olsen opts to rotate and rest one or both. Seitz in for Hamid would be the easier move, as United’s defensive midfield depth is already being sorely tested. Bustamante, who hasn’t yet dressed for a competitive game with D.C., is an option, as is Segura (which might open the door for Yow to start).
Projected Philadelphia starting 11: (4312) - Matt Freese; Ray Gaddis, Jack Elliott, Mark McKenzie, Fabinho; Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin, Anthony Fontana; Jamiro Monteiro; Sergio Santos, Kacper Przybylko
The Union are missing 6 players to injury or call-ups (including 4 starters), and they are grappling with the international problem as well. The Brotherly Game summed up just how bad things are.
This is still a respectable lineup, but the circumstances mean that United should really be seen as the favorite tonight.
Available TV: None
Available streaming: ESPN+ (subscribe via that link, & your friends at B&RU get some cash!)
What do we have to say about it?: We’ll have Filibuster and Opposition 11 available for you later today.
What are you drinking?: At this point the sponsors providing the bottled water should clearly start paying a small fee to get mentioned in this segment.
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