Meeting for the first time all year tonight, D.C. United and Atlanta United will both be looking for any positives they can muster. It’s been that kind of year for the two Uniteds in the East, with both clubs being shut out six different times and struggling badly to give their fans any excitement. Despite the generous allotment of playoff spots this year, both teams currently sit below the red line, adding an element of importance to this clash between two desperate teams.
Key player: Julian Gressel
How could it not be? With how much Gressel meant to Atlanta, how both of these teams are struggling, and how his move to D.C. hasn’t yet panned out (for a wide range of reasons), this one’s obvious.
It’s not even entirely clear that Gressel will start tonight, given that Griffin Yow got the nod over him in the last game, but there are a couple of reasons to think he’ll get the chance to prove to his old club that they should have kept him around. For one, he’s got a better knowledge of Atlanta’s players than anyone else on the team. That feel for what players like probable starting left back George Bello will do should give DCU an edge.
And secondly, now that United has added some speed to their attack by bringing Yordy Reyna in, Gressel’s service from deeper positions might end up opening things up vertically. Atlanta has leaned into being more of a hard-working, high-press team lately, which will in turn leave gaps at the back. If Gressel gets time to pick his head up, he should be able to find runners getting in behind.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Bill Hamid; Chris Odoi-Atsem, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno; Julian Gressel, Yordy Reyna, Yamil Asad; Ola Kamara
Bench: Chris Seitz, Axel Sjöberg, Donovan Pines, Oniel Fisher, Moses Nyeman, Federico Higuain, Griffin Yow, Erik Sorga, Gelmin Rivas
Ben Olsen has to deal with a long list of absentees, as has been the case seemingly all year. With six players out, it’s not that hard to pick the gameday 20-man squad. There aren’t that many questions in the mix here either. Canouse is back from suspension and will probably replace Nyeman in the starting lineup, while we already touched on the Gressel/Yow situation on the right wing. The only other question is probably at right back, where Odoi-Atsem has started three of the last four games after previously rotating the spot with Fisher pretty consistently.
Finally, is this a 442? Defensively it’s definitely a 442, and at times it attacks as a 442, but we’re going to list it as a 4231 given where Reyna and the wingers set up shop last week.
Projected Atlanta starting 11: (4231) - Brad Guzan; Franco Escobar, Fernando Meza, Miles Robinson, George Bello; Jeff Larentowicz, Eric Remedi; Jake Mulraney, Matheus Rossetto, Jon Gallagher; Adam Jahn
Cubo Torres is out, but Rossetto appears to be back in contention for interim boss Stephen Glass, and will probably step in as the attacking midfielder. Mulraney and Gallagher switch wings frequently, so they could easily flip-flop, but we could also see some options like Manuel Castro or Jurgen Damm come in as well. It’s also possible that Emerson Hyndman could start over Remedi or Rossetto.
The ongoing transfer saga involving Ezequiel Barco and Sevilla FC may or may not preclude his involvement tonight. He’s a wild card here, and could play 90, off the bench, or not even end up in uniform.
Referee: Joe Dickerson
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?: Once we got over the misery of the last two games, this week’s episode of Filibuster saw J. Sam Jones join us to commiserate over the East’s two most disappointing teams.
What are you drinking?: It’s going to be somewhere in the 50s during the game tonight, so I’m thinking of preparing some hot tea (maybe two parts green, one part lemon-ginger?) in a vacuum-sealed bottle and bringing it along with me.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos goalscoring and excitement!
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