There are some interesting contrasts between D.C. United and the New England Revolution, who face off tonight at Audi Field. While the standings point to United (2nd in the East) being firm favorites over the 8th place Revs, both sides have form that says otherwise. New England is unbeaten since ditching Brad Friedel, going 4W-3D-0L under a combination of interim head coach Mike Lapper and new boss Bruce Arena. United, meanwhile, has gone 1W-5D-2L in their last eight, and are in dire need of something more than the humdrum performances of late.
Key player: Russell Canouse
It’s fair to expect an attacking player in this space, what with United’s attack doing without Luciano Acosta (suspension) and struggling outside of the times Wayne Rooney does something that seems impossible. However, part of the reason they haven’t been able to get much going in the attack is a lack of opportunity stemming from no longer being able to dominate in central midfield.
Against the Revolution, who have an elite attacking midfielder in Carles Gil who somehow gets no attention (seriously, dude is one of the best players in the entire league), it’s doubly important for Canouse, Junior Moreno, and the rest of United’s midfield to take control. It’s a lot easier to create more chances if you’re having more of the ball in the attacking end, and it’s a lot easier to keep a shutout if the other team can’t form attacks.
What does that mean from Canouse? Being abrasive and fearless are parts of his game that haven’t gone anywhere, but of late he’s been maybe a half-step slower in terms of anticipation than in the past. He’s been fine, but like much of United’s squad, there’s some room between his current form and his very best. If we see Canouse in top gear tonight, we’ll probably see United take the three points.
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, Joseph Mora; Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno; Ulises Segura, Lucas Rodriguez, Paul Arriola; Wayne Rooney
Bench: Chris Seitz, Donovan Pines, Jalen Robinson, Chris Durkin, Zoltan Stieber, Griffin Yow, Quincy Amarikwa
We know Ben Olsen has to figure out what to do without the suspended Acosta. Arriola’s return probably settles that issue as far as who starts, but that attacking midfield trio could be shuffled up a few different ways. We’ve got Arriola in his USMNT position, but given Rodriguez’s lack of impact in Dallas, we could see the Argentine pushed back out wide. You could also make a solid argument that Stieber and/or Yow should get a start somewhere in there, as Arriola is the only member of that group playing effectively of late.
You could even push for Amarikwa to start, with Rooney dropping into Acosta’s role. There’s even a strong tactical argument for the 3421 to return, as adding Pines to the lineup would help neutralize New England’s speed advantage. Of course, Pines could just start over Brillant...
Look, there are a lot of ways Olsen can go here. We’re going to get some interesting news around 6pm or so.
Projected New England starting 11: (4231) - Matt Turner; Brandon Bye, Andrew Farrell, Jalil Anibaba, Edgar Castillo; Luis Caicedo, Wilfried Zahibo; Teal Bunbury, Carles Gil, Juan Agudelo; Juan Fernando Caicedo
Bruce Arena has toggled through a few different formations since taking charge of the Revs, but more often than not he’s played a 4231, and it’s getting results. He does have at least one issue with his lineup, though: Antonio Delamea is suspended (yellow card accumulation). With Michael Mancienne is questionable with a foot injury, the job in central defense is probably going to Anibaba.
We could see players like Cristian Penilla or Diego Fagundez playing on one of the wings, with Bunbury going up top, but the Colombian Caicedo (that’s Juan Fernando; Luis is from Ecuador) has gotten starts in the last two games.
Referee: Ted Unkel
Available TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes
Available streaming: ESPN app and ESPN+ (subscribe via that link, & your friends at B&RU get some cash!).
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What are you drinking?: Thinking I might get nuts tonight and have a can of Coke pre-game before turning to the usual diet of bottled water.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos finally producing a good performance after all this time!
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