If D.C. United is to end a six-game losing streak in tonight’s home game against the Philadelphia Union, they’re going to have to completely defy a lot of trends. United, despite showing some improvement over the weekend, are still in dead last, while the Union (34 points) are in 2nd place in the MLS standings. They’re 6W-1D-1L in their last 8 games, which when compared to United (0W-1D-7L) is not promising!
On top of that, recent meetings between these clubs have been extremely one-sided. In competitive play, Philadelphia has won each of the last seven meetings, and in five of those games they have done so by at least a two-goal margin. While United has beaten the Union in 2020 (a 3-1 triumph at the end of the preseason that, in retrospect, did not tell us what was coming this year!), the Union’s 4-1 win at the end of August was a very normal D.C.-Philly game over the last three or four years.
United is looking to take a new course, and showing their nearest geographic rival that they’re no longer going to be such an easy three points would be a big step in the right direction.
Key player: Junior Moreno
Moreno has not met his own standards this year, which is a common issue across United’s roster. However, against Chicago he had arguably his best game of the season, controlling the tempo for United and disrupting play in a more proactive manner than he has for most of 2020.
With all due respect to the Fire, though, the level of difficulty wasn’t particularly high on Sunday. Chicago might not make the playoffs; by comparison, the Union may end up winning this year’s weird version of the Supporters Shield. Throw in the issues that come when you’re playing a flat 442 against a team that has built its entire approach to soccer around creating and leveraging numerical superiority to force turnovers, and he’s obviously going to have to overcome fatigue and be one of United’s top performers on the night again.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (442) - Bill Hamid; Oniel Fisher, Frederic Brillant, Donovan Pines, Joseph Mora; Julian Gressel, Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, Yamil Asad; Erik Sorga, Ola Kamara
Bench: Chris Seitz, Earl Edwards Jr., Axel Sjöberg, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Moses Nyeman, Kevin Paredes, Griffin Yow, Edison Flores, Gelmin Rivas
Ashton’s in a bit of a tricky spot, as United’s lineup showed progress for the first time in weeks against Chicago...but they only had two days to recover before playing again. This projected lineup only contains two changes — it feels safe to say that Fisher and Kamara will be in there somewhere tonight — but we could see a couple more in the midfield. Gressel took what looked like a painful knock to his foot late in the first half and gutted it out, but perhaps one of Yow or Paredes steps in for him? Asad covered a ton of ground at Solider Field as well, so it could be both homegrown options stepping in.
As for the rest of the squad, Nyeman was declared “fine” by Ashton in yesterday’s press conference, so he’s very likely to return to the gameday roster. That leaves United with 20 players to fill 20 spots, but one there is one curious development on the injury report: Yordy Reyna isn’t listed at all.
Projected Philadelphia starting 11: (4231) - Andre Blake; Olivier Mbaizo, Jack Elliott, Mark McKenzie, Matt Real; Alejandro Bedoya, Anthony Fontana; Brenden Aaronson, Jerson Monteiro, Sergio Santos; Kacper Przybylko
Jim Curtin may opt to rotate more than this, but his options are somewhat limited by availability. Warren Creavalle and Jakob Glesnes are both out, as is normal starting defensive midfielder Jose Martinez. Ray Gaddis and Ilsinho are both questionable with knocks as well.
It’s Martinez being away with Venezuela, though, that dictates the switch to 4231 rather than the 442 diamond. With Creavalle out, the options are to either start Fontana and ask Bedoya to play more conservatively than usual, give Matej Oravec his MLS debut, or to look to academy product Cole Turner (who has one three-minute MLS cameo under his belt).
If Curtin prefers to rotate more liberally, though, he could start Andrew Wooten over Przybylko. Kai Wagner is the normal starter at left back, but Curtin has often used the extra subs that are available this year to cycle through fullbacks, and Wagner played the full 90 on Sunday night.
Referee: As of the time this was written, PRO had not named a referee for tonight’s game.
Available TV: WJLA 24/7 News (D.C. region only)
Available streaming: If you live inside this blackout zone that United provided for us, you can stream the game on the team site. For everyone else, ESPN+ or FuboTV (subscribe via those links, & your friends at B&RU get some cash!).
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What are you drinking?: It looks like it’s going to dip below 60 by kickoff, so I’ll be taking another vacuum-sealed bottle of hot tea with me, or maybe some coffee?
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos huge upset!
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