D.C. United will be looking to build on two straight road wins tonight as they return home to host the Columbus Crew at Audi Field. Just as their season appeared disconnected from the broader MLS playoff picture, United has picked up seven points from three games, and in no time at all they’ve joined the race for the final postseason spots in the East. That said, maintaining their slim playoff hopes will be difficult, as the Crew are a cut above the struggling Eastern Conference foes the Black-and-Red have knocked off of late.
Key player: Edison Flores
United is inching closer to unlocking what Flores can do, but at a certain point he’s got to also produce the sort of big play that is less about the Black-and-Red combining with him and more about being the kind of player whose resume merited a huge transfer fee to come here.
This isn’t a complaint necessarily, as Flores has spent most of the year in an ill-defined role or injured, but of late the circumstances have improved. He’s fit, the system is simpler, and United is willing to take some chances. There will be opportunities today, and United’s chances will improve dramatically if this game is a big step rather than the incremental progress we’ve been seeing.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (442) - Bill Hamid; Oniel Fisher, Russell Canouse, Donovan Pines, Joseph Mora; Kevin Paredes, Junior Moreno, Yamil Asad, Edison Flores; Erik Sorga, Gelmin Rivas
Bench: Chris Seitz, Earl Edwards Jr., Frederic Brillant, Axel Sjöberg, Moses Nyeman, Julian Gressel, Griffin Yow, Yordy Reyna, Ola Kamara
Chris Odoi-Atsem’s concussion adds him to the lengthy injury report, which means that United will have to dress three goalkeepers to get to 20 players in uniform (and that’s assuming Brillant, who is questionable, is able to play). Fisher is the obvious choice to start at right back, especially with Brillant’s status and Canouse’s success at center back on the weekend.
Elsewhere, look for some rotation in at least a couple of spots. Chad Ashton gave a hint after the win in Atlanta that he’s likely to continue rotating between Rivas and Kamara, while Paredes figures to come in on one wing or the other to add fresh legs. It’s worth watching whether Nyeman (or Canouse if he isn’t used as a defender) has to step in for Asad, who has played the full 90 in each of the last four games.
Projected Columbus starting 11: (4231) - Eloy Room; Harrison Afful, Jonathan Mensah, Josh Williams, Hector Jimenez; Darlington Nagbe, Artur; Luis Diaz, Lucas Zelarayan, Youness Mokhtar; Krisztian Nemeth
Caleb Porter has been up front about wanting to rotate, but unfortunately for United, that may mean more of their most important players come into the team tonight after not starting in Houston on the weekend. Diaz, Zelarayan, and Mokhtar in particular are all dangerous, though Pedro Santos could start in any of those three spots (not to mention former United winger Emmanuel Boateng, who started that 1-1 draw against the Dynamo).
This continues in the engine room, where Fatai Alashe could step in for Artur or Nagbe, and up front (where Gyasi Zardes is supposedly 50/50 to even be in uniform). With Fanendo Adi out, Nemeth or Jordan Hamilton are the options to lead the line. In the back, Williams and Jimenez are not normally starters, but it sounds like they were held out on the weekend so they’d be ready to go tonight. If Porter wants to field his first-choice back four, it’ll be Abubacar Keita and Milton Valenzuela starting over that pair.
Referee: Provided the official MLS game guide is right and PRO doesn’t make a late change, the referee for this one is Silviu Petrescu.
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 do we have to say about it?: Plenty. We looked at the situation in the standings, and took a deep dive into the data to sort out what Ashton has changed since taking over. The latest Filibuster also discusses what’s going on with the Crew.
What are you drinking?: I’ll be in the press box, so once again it’ll be an insulated bottle full of hot tea (half green, half lemon-ginger), and probably some water too.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos keeping this thing going!
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