D.C. United will be looking to take the next step today as they head west to face fellow strugglers FC Cincinnati. Since the end of the Ben Olsen era, United has made some small progress, arguably outplaying their last two opponents, but ultimately the results (a loss and a home draw) were what you’d expect from a team at the bottom of the table.
Cincinnati, though, did one better, springing a 2-1 upset on Wednesday in the Hell is Real Derby, and they’re only four points from a playoff spot. Nonetheless, facing a side that has only scored 10 goals all season — these are the two lowest-scoring teams in MLS — the Black-and-Red will be hoping their recent move towards being a more attack-minded team is the recipe to escape what is now a nine-game winless rut.
Key player: Yamil Asad
United had to get creative on Wednesday after Junior Moreno came up with a knock and missed out, and the solution was to move Asad (an outside-in left winger for almost all of his time with United) into the no. 8 role in central midfield. It seemed like a real roll of the dice, but Asad responded with arguably his best performance of the season. Despite being outnumbered 4-2 at times against the Philadelphia Union’s diamond midfield, Asad and Russell Canouse were crucial in D.C. having the better of the game.
On one hand, the task is easier tonight: Cincinnati is nowhere near as good as the Union. On the other hand, it’ll be his third game in a week, and he played every second of the previous two. On turf, on the road, and with a new central midfield partner (Canouse is suspended), he’ll have to produce at least the same level of play to lead United to their first win in nearly seven weeks.
Location: Nippert Stadium (Cincinnati, OH)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (442) - Bill Hamid; Chris Odoi-Atsem, Frederic Brillant Donovan Pines, Oniel Fisher; Julian Gressel, Junior Moreno, Yamil Asad, Edison Flores; Erik Sorga, Ola Kamara
Bench: Chris Seitz, Earl Edwards Jr., Axel Sjöberg, Joseph Mora, Moses Nyeman, Kevin Paredes, Griffin Yow, Gelmin Rivas
Let’s start with the absentees. United has five names you already knew were out (Mohammed Abu, Paul Arriola, Steven Birnbaum, Felipe Martins, and Ulises Segura) listed as such on the injury report, while Russell Canouse is suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
There are three players worth paying close attention to when lineups come out. Moreno is listed as questionable after missing Wednesday’s game with a new injury, while Hamid (non-Covid-19 illness) is off the list entirely. “They’re both kind of day-to-day, so I don’t know at this point,” said interim head coach Chad Ashton when asked by media on Friday. “I would call both of them questionable.”
If Hamid’s off the injury report, he’s probably set to return in goal. If Moreno is able to start, he’s a sure bet to replace Canouse. Otherwise, that role will go to Nyeman, and it’s not entirely clear who else (Gressel? Paredes?) would be in line for central midfield minutes.
For the rest of the lineup, we’re projecting Mora on the bench purely due to the fact that he’s played the full 90 twice in the last week. Gressel should be fresh though, and hopefully Flores can put in another 45 (or more?) tonight.
Projected Cincinnati starting 11: (4231) - Bobby Edwards; Saad Abdul-Salaam, Nick Hagglund, Tom Pettersson, Andrew Gutman; Kamohelo Mokotjo, Haris Medunjanin; Alvaro Barreal, Frankie Amaya, Joe Gyau; Brandon Vazquez
Jaap Stam has been dealing with a ton of injuries of late, but Cincy is on the mend...sort of. They’ve only got three players officially listed as out (Mathieu Deplagne, Greg Garza, and Przemyslaw Tyton), but several other players missed out on their 2-1 win over Columbus due to injuries. In goal, Edwards is the third-string option due to Tyton’s back-up, Spencer Richey, coming up with a back injury on Tuesday.
On top of that, starting attacker Yuya Kubo departed with an apparent hamstring injury on Wednesday, and Allan Cruz was clearly playing hurt in the final minutes. $10 million striker Jurgen Locadia is not listed as hurt, but is a huge doubt:
If there’s any other rotation, it could be Caleb Stanko coming in as the no. 8 for Mokotjo, or Amaya moving into that role and leaving a spot open for Cruz or Siem de Jong. If Kubo is fit, he’ll start, but it seems highly unlikely.
Referee: Once again, PRO has not announced the referees for tonight as of the time this was written.
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?: I might be doing some socially distanced outdoor activity with a beer or two in the early afternoon, and if I do, the answer here will be whatever beer I have left over.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos winning the easiest game left on the schedule!
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