D.C. United will be looking to build off of a much-needed mid-week win as they take the field today against Atlanta United. The Black-and-Red’s win over FC Cincinnati Thursday inched them back ahead of Atlanta in the Eastern Conference standings, and hopefully points to this team turning a corner after a long middling spell. To get on a genuine hot streak, they’re going to have to win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where visiting teams have picked up a grand total of one (1) point in the last eight MLS games held there.
Key player: Luciano Acosta
From one angle, Wayne Rooney and Paul Arriola might (for different reasons) need a rest here. As such, Acosta’s return from suspension gives Ben Olsen a dangerous attacking player to plug into the lineup without having a major drop in quality (though obviously he’s a very different player from these two).
From another, there may be a bit of competition for places now. Lucas Rodriguez had what could potentially be a statement game on Thursday. Yes, it was just Cincinnati, but if he can build on that against more difficult opponents, and Olsen maintains the 343, someone between Rodriguez, Rooney, Arriola, and Acosta has to sit.
Finally, there’s the traditional “Lucho vs. Atlanta” thing. Acosta has 5 goals and 2 assists against the Five Stripes in 7 appearances against them, making him a bona fide terror for ATL fans. United probably needs him to do it again, especially if Olsen opts for more rotation than expected.
Location: Mercedez-Benz Stadium (Atlanta, GA)
Kickoff time: 4:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (343) - Bill Hamid; Donovan Pines, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum; Leonardo Jara, Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, Joseph Mora; Lucas Rodriguez, Quincy Amarikwa, Luciano Acosta
Bench: Chris Seitz, Jalen Robinson, Marquinhos Pedroso, Chris Durkin, Ulises Segura, Paul Arriola, Wayne Rooney
We’re guessing a bit here, as the circumstances (short rest, first win in a while, reports of Rooney possibly not starting from Steve Goff, Acosta’s return from suspension) have created a lot of question marks. Our guess: Amarikwa starts for Rooney, and Arriola is rotated out after a busy six weeks or so fro Acosta.
However, would it be a surprise if Robinson stepped in for Brillant? Or if, say, Jara or Mora got rotated out? Or maybe Arriola starts somewhere despite his heavy workload, or Rooney ends up being just fine...there’s a lot going on.
One thing that does seem relatively certain is Hamid’s return to the starting lineup. That is, unless the rumored team rules-related punishment was cover for something else.
Projected Atlanta starting 11: (4231) - Brad Guzan; Franco Escobar, Miles Robinson, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Michael Parkhurst; Eric Remedi, Darlington Nagbe; Gonzalo Martinez, Julian Gressel, Justin Meram; Josef Martinez
There are similar questions for Frank de Boer. Atlanta tore Houston to shreds playing a 352 mid-week, but that was without Escobar, and in general de Boer has skewed towards a 4231 or 433. Throw in the fact that Houston played 84 minutes down a man, and the’s reason to expect a switch back to the norm even after that kind of scoreline.
There are arguments the other way, though: Emerson Hyndman might not have a place in this lineup, as the need for a winger means Meram would get the nod instead. Perhaps more notably, Atlanta would have to choose between Parkhurst (who is very clearly not cut out to play as a fullback in 2019) or Mikey Ambrose (only just back fit after an injury) at left back.
Referee: Allen Chapman
Available TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes
Available streaming: WatchESPN, ESPN Deportes+ USA
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What are you drinking?: In order to be present at the Ligue 1 Games friendlies later this evening, I’ll be watching this one from the press box at Audi Field, which is weird! But anyway, the answer here is water.
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