D.C. United’s final friendly of 2019 is tonight, as they host Liga MX side Club Puebla at Audi Field. It’s a curious moment for United, who could use the opportunity to build momentum after a badly-needed win on Saturday. A friendly in which most of the starters from that victory play few or no minutes isn’t exactly going to accomplish that, but it’s better than spending half a month twiddling thumbs.
So, they’ll get in a workout tonight against Puebla, who currently sit in 17th place out of 19 teams in the Apertura table. La Franja’s problem: defending. Puebla has conceded 15 goals in their 7 matches thus far. With Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta both set to start, this game should be just a little bit different from United’s previous “mixed D.C./Loudoun lineup gets routed by European club’s starters” friendlies.
Key player: Leonardo Jara
It’s quietly been over six weeks since Jara logged an assist, and D.C. just got an eye-opening performance from Russell Canouse at right back. It’s also been a while since we’ve seen Jara put his full range of passing on display, and Ben Olsen’s interest in trying him elsewhere from time to time indicates some skepticism over whether he fits the coach’s vision for what is needed out of this team’s right back.
There’s no doubt that Jara is extravagantly talented on the ball. What United needs to see out of Jara in this game (and over the next few weeks) is a more regular display of that ability to break the defense open with a visionary pass, or to get into the attacking third and create a chance for someone else. However, that can’t come at the expense of being solid defensively. While it hasn’t really been Jara’s fault that United only just broke a horrible run of poor starts, it’s fair to say that his side of the back four has been the softer target for opposing teams.
Tonight may be a friendly but for Jara this is a chance to prove that Canouse isn’t the only option going forward. Given what happened in Montreal, it might also be his last chance to make that case.
Location: Audi Field
Kickoff time: 8:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Chris Seitz; Leonardo Jara, Collin Verfurth, Harri Hawkins, Marquinhos Pedroso; Nelson Martinez, Antonio Bustamante; Gordon Wild, Luciano Acosta, Emmanuel Boateng; Wayne Rooney
Bench: Earl Edwards Jr., Connor Presley, Joseph Mora, Allexon Saravia, Russell Canouse, Alexis Cerritos, Ulises Segura, Lucas Rodriguez, Orlando Sinclair, Quincy Amarikwa
Ben Olsen has already said that Rooney and Acosta will start, and a simple look at the injury list and minutes played on Saturday guide us towards the lineup above. The Loudoun call-ups we’ve sprinkled in are purely speculative at this point, but guys like Verfurth, Saravia, and Presley have appeared in both of United’s friendlies this season.
Based on minutes played this year, veterans like Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, and Paul Arriola will probably get the night off entirely. But, who knows? It’s a friendly, things get weird.
Projected Puebla starting 11: I’m not going to try to hazard a guess about a friendly lineup from a club I haven’t seen play in 2019, but Puebla helpfully tweeted out the 18 players they brought up for tonight’s game:
Estos son los 18 Enfranjados que este momento están volando ✈️— Club Puebla (@ClubPueblaMX) September 3, 2019
OJO Emiliano García, nuestro canterano y seleccionado de 15 años, podría ver sus primeros minutos con el primer equipo #LaFranjaQueNosUne pic.twitter.com/4v76CQRCez
That list includes Mexico international Jesus Zavala and veteran Liga MX campaigners like Matias Alustiza and Luis Miguel Noriega. It also includes 15-year-old academy product Emiliano Garcia, so it’s a mixed bag just like United’s squad is going to be today.
Available TV: None as far as we can tell.
Available streaming: Spent plenty of time looking around online, and there is no indication from either team that they plan to stream this game. FloFC has nothing listed either. So...maybe none? However, this was the case with the Marseille friendly, and the day of the game, Marseille announced that they’d put it on Twitter.
Both teams should be streaming it, for free, but as of now we have no information saying they will. If the situation changes, we’ll edit this post.
What are you drinking?: After a lovely weekend at the beach, I have come back just in time to see a furious return to the humid, sweaty peak summer temperatures I thought were gone. Good ol’ press box bottled water will see me through this crisis.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos no injuries!