D.C. United has to seriously worry about their place in the playoff places tonight, as they visit the Montreal Impact in a pivotal game in the MLS Eastern Conference. For the first time since the 2019 season began, United is in serious jeopardy of falling below the red line. A loss tonight, coupled with a win for Toronto FC — whose game at New England kicks off at the same time this one does — would put United in 8th place with just four games to go. Wayne Rooney’s suspension won’t help, as United looks to arrest a poor run of form (1W-0D-4L in their last 5 games).
Key player: Junior Moreno and Felipe
About that 1W-0D-4L run: United’s defensive midfield play without Russell Canouse has frankly been very poor since a respectable outing in their last win, a 2-1 win over the Galaxy. Felipe has been culpable on goals in three straight games, Moreno isn’t really making his presence felt on either side of the ball, and winning the battle in central midfield is giving the Black-and-Red’s opponents the opportunity to control games.
Both of these players are much better than what we’ve been seeing lately. Ben Olsen could alter the specifics of their roles, with Felipe not having to stay deep to receive the ball from the center backs, but even if that change isn’t coming, United’s engine room needs to be significantly better at making decisions, moving the ball more quickly, and generally being tough to beat (particularly in the opening minutes).
Location: Stade Saputo (Montreal, Quebec)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Bill Hamid; Leonardo Jara, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Felipe, Junior Moreno; Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta, Lucas Rodriguez; Ola Kamara
Bench: Chris Seitz, Donovan Pines, Marquinhos Pedroso, Russell Canouse, Ulises Segura, Emmanuel Boateng, Quincy Amarikwa
Between suspensions, injuries, loans, and youth national team call-ups, there aren’t too many options beyond this group. If Canouse isn’t able to travel — he has been training this week, but there’s no guarantee that he’s fit enough to play — Olsen effectively has to choose between Antonio Bustamante and Gordon Wild to take the last spot on the bench.
It’s possible that Boateng starts, but with Rooney out, Rodriguez’s ability to generate chances for others points to him getting the start on the left wing.
Projected Montreal starting 11: (442) - Evan Bush; Bacary Sagna, Rudy Camacho, Jukka Raitala, Dan Lovitz; Orji Okwonkwo, Samuel Piette, Saphir Taïder, Lassi Lappalainen; Bojan Krkic, Maximiliano Urruti
Wilmer Cabrera’s first two games in charge have seen the Impact defend out of a rigid 442, while their attacking posture often resembled a 4231 with Urruti and Bojan alternating between the striker’s role and the attacking midfield spot. It’s a back-to-basics approach, which is not shocking given Cabrera’s pragmatism in Houston and the Impact’s “get into the playoffs no matter what” mindset right now.
Referee: Allen Chapman
Available TV: None in the DMV.
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What are you drinking?: I’m on vacation, but last night was probably the big night in terms of indulgence. I’ll probably just stick to grapefruit seltzer until this game is over, and then move on to a Paloma or two.
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