D.C. United finishes up a set of three straight away from home tonight, as they head out to Illinois to face the struggling Chicago Fire. The hosts have just one win in their last eleven games, and are coping with an injury list that could see as many as four starters unavailable. That’s a contrast with United, who are as healthy as they’ve been all season, and should have their best eleven available for the first time in months.
However, the Fire’s problems this year are mostly away from home. At SeatGeek Stadium, they’ve lost just twice in twelve games and boast a +12 goal difference thanks to some blowout wins (including a 5-1 result earlier this month against Atlanta United). United may look like the strong favorites for this one, but Bridgeview has been a tough venue all year long, and it’s going to take United’s best to come home with three points.
Key player: Wayne Rooney
Going with the obvious answer here. Rooney is back from a weekend off, and United needs him to be rejuvenated and ready to go. Ben Olsen has more than once this season indicated that pressing Chicago can be tricky, so Rooney’s leadership in that department is vital, as keeping the Fire discombobulated and unable to build out of the back is a very good starting point.
Of course, the real key here is on the creative end. With all of United’s top attackers available, a sharp performance from Rooney should result in plenty of chances against a Fire defense that has been a liability all year long. Chicago has coughed up 2 goals in each of their last 3 games, and while Philadelphia has a respectable attack, the other opponents in that stretch are Columbus and Cincinnati (the two lowest-scoring teams in MLS). This is a prime opportunity for Rooney and co. to put some goals on the board.
Location: SeatGeek Stadium (Bridgeview, IL)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Bill Hamid; Leonardo Jara, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno; Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta, Lucas Rodriguez; Wayne Rooney
Bench: Chris Seitz, Donovan Pines, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Chris Durkin, Ulises Segura, Griffin Yow, Quincy Amarikwa
This is the starting eleven that looked like a full-strength version of this team coming into the season, and for the first time since March 31 (the fourth game of 2019), Ben Olsen has the opportunity to field his best eleven.
With Zoltan Stieber departing the team, there’s little mystery in the 18. Odoi-Atsem did travel, but will he, Marquinhos Pedroso, or Jalen Robinson get the final spot on the bench? Or, could it be two of that trio and Yow making way? Is Gordon Wild possibly going to get into the 18 this quickly?
So there are questions, but they’re around the periphery. Rooney’s back, Oniel Fisher is the only person on the injury report, and there are no excuses for this one.
Projected Chicago starting 11: (352) - Kenneth Kronholm; Johan Kappelhof, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Francisco Calvo; Przemyslaw Frankowski, Brandt Bronico, Dax McCarty, Djordje Mihailovic, Raheem Edwards; CJ Sapong, Nemanja Nikolic
Guessing what Veljko Paunovic is going to do is a fool’s errand, and on top of that they’ve lost two recent starters (Jorge Corrales and Fabian Herbers) to injury. Jonathan Bornstein has just been signed, but could be needed straight away as a left wingback, but our guess is that Edwards will be recalled. But, be prepared for Paunovic to go some other way with it. It could be Grant Lillard joining the back three, with Calvo playing as a wingback, or it could be something else entirely.
Two more likely starters (Nico Gaitan and Aleksandar Katai) are questionable, and if they’re available we’ll likely see a 4231 with Sapong up top, Gaitan, Katai, and Frankowski beneath him, and Nikolic on the bench.
Referee: Kevin Stott
Available TV: None in the DMV.
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What are you drinking?: Probably Atlas Brewing’s Ninja Sauce, which is a good summer Belgian pale ale.
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