D.C. United’s 2019 has largely been frustrating, but they may just be turning a corner heading into today’s home game against the Seattle Sounders. First of all, yesterday’s results have assured United of a spot in the MLS playoffs. A shift to a more defensive gameplan has seen the Black-and-Red win two straight games, both on the road, and both via shutout. It hasn’t been particularly thrilling, but it has stabilized a team that seemed adrift heading into the season’s final month.
To continue their good form, they’ve got to pounce on a tired, short-handed version of the Sounders. Seattle comes into this game missing several key defenders, and they had a game Wednesday night on the west coast before making the trip out. They’re a wounded foe, but United’s history when hosting the Sounders (1W-1D-4L in MLS play, plus an infamous Open Cup final defeat in 2009) has been a real problem. Correcting that history with a win tonight would give United a real shot at getting a home playoff game.
Key player: Paul Arriola
Arriola’s move into a central role has helped United in several ways: they’re better when they opt to high-press, they’ve been more solid defending up the middle, and as they’ve mostly been relying on transition and quick breaks of late, he’s been able to get/create more high-quality chances.
With Seattle fielding an extremely makeshift defense, it’s that last aspect that will be the most important. United has the chance to put this weakened Sounders team to the sword right away, but they need to be clinical when they get their looks. It’s not just Arriola, of course, but you just know he’s going to be involved in most of United’s best attacking play. If he’s sharp, D.C. should be able to provide the goalscoring threat to make things easier than having to defend a bombardment for 45 minutes.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Bill Hamid; Russell Canouse, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Felipe, Junior Moreno; Ulises Segura, Paul Arriola, Lucas Rodriguez; Wayne Rooney
Bench: Chris Seitz, Donovan Pines, Leonardo Jara, Luciano Acosta, Emmanuel Boateng, Quincy Amarikwa, Ola Kamara
It’s not clear whether Kamara (listed as questionable after missing last week’s win with hamstring tightness) can play any part. If he’s not in uniform, Ben Olsen will probably call on Gordon Wild, who scored in Loudoun United’s last game.
That’s the only real mystery, though, and United has won two straight playing with Arriola as their no. 10 and focusing on hard work and defensive stability as priorities. If everyone’s healthy, look for the same starting eleven. Brillant, who suffered a hand injury late in that win over Portland, trained all week and should be good to go.
Projected Sounders starting 11: (4231) - Stefan Frei; Kelvin Leerdam, Kim Kee-Hee, Gustav Svensson, Brad Smith; Emmanuel Cecchini, Jordy Delem; Harry Shipp, Nicolas Lodeiro, Handwalla Bwana; Jordan Morris
There’s a lot of guesswork here, as Brian Schmetzer might go for a more aggressive rotation (think starts for homegrown teenager Danny Leyva and Tacoma Defiance regular Justin Dhillon) after his side played mid-week before flying cross-country. They could also start big names like Raul Ruidiaz and Cristian Roldan, though that would count as a fairly significant surprise.
In the back, we do know that they’ll be without Xavier Arreaga (sent off on Wednesday), Roman Torres (PED suspension), and Jonathan Campbell (calf). Kim is their lone remaining natural center back, so look for either Svensson to drop back from defensive midfield, or for fullback Saad Abdul-Salaam to give it a go centrally. Either way, it’s a major opportunity for United.
Referee: Alan Kelly
Available TV: None in the DMV.
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: We cut Filibuster in half, so this episode is entirely about what to expect from the Sounders. We also spent some time figuring out exactly where United is likely to end up in the playoff race.
What are you drinking?: The summer heat is coming back despite it no longer being summer, so it’ll be time to have a few rounds of press box bottled water.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos pairing good defense with good offense!
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