D.C. United’s path to a fourth U.S. Open Cup title started with arguably their most familiar foe, but tonight’s Round of 16 clash against NYCFC is a first. New York City FC had never previously advanced past their first hurdle in the cup, but romped to a 4-0 win over North Carolina FC. Despite being short-handed at the moment, the Pigeons have good reason to be confident: they haven’t lost a competitive match since March, and that 11-game streak includes a 2-0 win at Audi Field back in April.
Can United get some revenge and get themselves into the quarterfinals? It will probably take a better start than we saw in last week’s heart-stopping extra time comeback win.
Key player: Chris Seitz
On what figures to be a rainy night on Buzzard Point, Seitz — we figure he’s going to get another start while Bill Hamid has been resting a sore knee — is going to need to be stable and solid in goal. NYCFC has a knack for leaning on long-range shots against United, and they’ve got some players who can really crush the ball while still keeping it on frame. Normally, that’s not the worst scenario, but on a night like tonight, choosing which shots to catch, which to push wide of goal, and which to punch can be the difference between a win or a loss.
On top of that, Seitz needs to be good when the ball is at his feet. That’s something that is a bit more iffy, as the Real Betis friendly proved. NYCFC will at least sporadically high press, even if they opt for the counter-attacking approach that won them a game in the District earlier this year. In these conditions, that’s a good idea, and Seitz is going to have to avoid turnovers while also avoiding too many long balls that leave United’s attack with a fight to keep possession.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Chris Seitz; Leonardo Jara, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Chris Durkin, Russell Canouse; Ulises Segura, Luciano Acosta, Lucas Rodriguez; Wayne Rooney
Bench: Earl Edwards Jr., Jalen Robinson, Akeem Ward, Chris McCann, Antonio Bustamante, Griffin Yow, Quincy Amarikwa
Don’t forget, there’s a limit of 5 internationals in the Open Cup. That’s why Zoltan Stieber and Marquinhos Pedroso are not listed here. With Hamid probably getting the night off and Chris Odoi-Atsem dealing with a hip flexor strain, the 18 is pretty straightforward. Durkin returns from suspension, it sounds like Canouse is fit to play, and the only question mark really is whether Donovan Pines (who was, per Emily Olsen of ProSoccerUSA, back in training for the first time since spraining his knee) has enough in his legs to play some part.
Projected NYCFC starting 11: (433) - Brad Stuver; Anton Tinnerholm, Sebastian Ibeagha, Alexander Ring, Juan Pablo Torres; Keaton Parks, Justin Haak, Maxi Moralez; Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Heber, Alexandru Mitrita
Between call-ups and injuries, Domè Torrent has just 15 field players available, so don’t expect too many changes from the lineup that beat North Carolina FC 4-0 to get here. However, there will still be some, with Torrent specifically naming all three of the forwards listed here as needing minutes. Given Heber’s hot start to his MLS career (6 goals/3 assists in 10 appearances), that’s not ideal news.
Ring’s return is also big, because it allows Torrent to move Tinnerholm back to his natural spot at right back. On the other hand, it looks likely that the Finn will be playing center back, which is definitely not his best spot.
Referee: Fotis Bazakos
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?: Touched on this game in the latest episode of Filibuster, and Opposition 11 will be available for you later this morning.
What are you drinking?: I might get wild and have a ginger ale before the game.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos getting a win out of the inevitable Open Cup weirdness!
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