D.C. United has a chance to move into a tie for first in the Eastern Conference, but they’ll have to beat the Philadelphia Union tonight to make it count. These two teams needed the entire 120 minutes and stoppage time to separate them the last time they met, and have had broadly similar seasons all year long. As such, both teams have been drifting along of late rather than taking control of the East, so a win tonight could jump-start the victor’s overall form and confidence as summer approaches its end.
Key player: Luciano Acosta
When these two teams last met, Acosta’s influence on the game was minor for about an hour before he started to pick things up. Tonight, United can’t afford another slow start. Acosta’s ability to make a difference on the dribble should be a particular point of emphasis, whether it be the direct cause of scoring chances or the source of dangerous free kicks. With multiple Union defensive players lacking a bit in the agility and quickness departments, Acosta has a great chance to be the difference-maker he’s supposed to be tonight.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Bill Hamid; Leonardo Jara, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Chris Durkin, Junior Moreno; Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta, Lucas Rodriguez; Wayne Rooney
Bench: Chris Seitz, Donovan Pines, Jalen Robinson, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Ulises Segura, Griffin Yow, Quincy Amarikwa
Picking the 18 is pretty easy here, with the only real choice to make being to pick two out of Odoi-Atsem, Robinson, and Marquinhos Pedroso. It seems reasonable to expect Ben Olsen to plug Chris Durkin into the lineup instead of the injured Russell Canouse.
The formation, though, is tougher. United has by and large been better playing a 4231, particularly when they’ve had most of their best players, but it seems like there’s always something coming up. Olsen has played a back three or five in each of the last four games, but United has only very occasionally been a major threat going forward in any of those formations.
As such, consider this an educated guess that is also an attempt to will something into being. United can put their best four attackers (for the moment) on the field, and given the lack of offensive success lately, why wouldn’t they?
Projected Philadelphia starting 11: (4312) - Andre Blake; Ray Gaddis, Jack Elliott, Auston Trusty, Kai Wagner; Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin, Brenden Aaronson; Marco Fabián; Fafa Picault, Kacper Pzrybylko
Jim Curtin has more or less a settled team at this point. Unless he has a major surprise planned for today, he’ll play this diamond midfield, and the only players in question are due to injury. Picault (questionable, hamstring) may be replaced up front by Sergio Santos, while Aaronson may make way for Jamiro Monteiro (questionable, ankle).
Ilsinho isn’t listed here, but given that he has 4 goals and 6 assists in under 600 minutes played this season, he bears mentioning. He’ll almost certainly be a substitute for Curtin early in the second half.
Referee: Armando Villarreal
Available TV: Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes
Available streaming: Fox Sports Go, Fox Soccer Match Pass
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: Check back on the site in a couple of hours, when Opposition 11 is scheduled to publish!
What are you drinking?: The connoisseur's press box choice is sponsor-provided bottled water, and so I will drink water.
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