D.C. United enters tonight’s game against the New England Revolution feeling like a team that’s still very much in transition. United abandoned the low block we saw during MLS is Back, going on the front foot and pressuring Cincinnati last Friday despite being the road team. That was a positive, but it came with very few scoring chances, leaving fans and players alike frustrated after a 0-0 draw.
Believe it or not, though, United enters this game with a higher-scoring attack than the Revolution, who have not scored since Adam Buksa gave them a 51st minute lead against United down in Orlando. As such, both teams are badly in need of a spark to create more and better chances.
player concept: Attacking movement
Staying on topic, United have scored just six goals in the oddly cobbled-together six games that constitute the regular season so far, and half of those are on set pieces and unforced giveaways. It generally hasn’t been a finishing issue, either; United isn’t creating enough chances to be expected to have many more goals than this.
The cure isn’t likely to be on a given player suddenly exploding into great form. The Black-and-Red need a collective improvement going forward, and the thing that needs to improve the most is the quality and urgency of their movement without the ball. Against FC Cincinnati, attacks following turnovers frequently consisted of someone getting on the ball, looking up, and finding either a shortage of viable runs, redundant runs, runs done either too late or too slowly, or a mix of all of these.
That’s gotta stop if we’re going to see some goals tonight.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (3412) - Bill Hamid; Frederic Brillant, Donovan Pines, Steven Birnbaum; Julian Gressel, Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, Joseph Mora; Yamil Asad; Edison Flores, Ola Kamara
Bench: Chris Seitz, Axel Sjöberg, Oniel Fisher, Mohammed Abu, Felipe Martins, Kevin Paredes, Ulises Segura, Federico Higuain, Erik Sorga
According to The Washington Post, Oniel Fisher may be available for this game, which changes things quite a bit for United. But let’s assume he’s not ready to start, which means Olsen probably has a good reason to stick with the 3412. Felipe Martins is also back from suspension, and Olsen could play with a back four by bringing him into the midfield and moving Canouse to right back. It’s up in the air at this point.
We’re guessing the back three stays in place, but with some modest rotation. Mora for Paredes is a recognition of how dangerous the Revs are down the flanks, and Flores coming in for Segura is about trying to spark the attack. If this is the formation, we may also see Pines and Brillant swap spots, again due to New England’s speed out wide.
There are good tactical arguments in both directions, and this preview very nearly ended up listing 4231 instead. If Olsen prefers that, look for Canouse at right back (or Fisher if he’s able to play from the start), Felipe starting in the midfield, and Pines ending up on the bench. Griffin Yow probably gets into the gameday squad over Sjöberg in this scenario.
Projected New England Revolution starting 11: (4231) - Matt Turner; Brandon Bye, Andrew Farrell, Michael Mancienne, Alexander Büttner; Kelyn Rowe, Matt Polster; Teal Bunbury, Gustavo Bou, Cristian Penilla; Adam Buksa
With four days between games, Bruce Arena probably isn’t going to rotate much at all. This projected lineup has just one change: Mancienne in at center back for Henry Kessler. That’s speculation on our part, but Kessler went down with what looked like a painful knee injury in the last seconds of their 0-0 draw with Philadelphia. It could be nothing (he’s not on the injury report), or it could mean that the rookie misses this game (the injury report appears to be even less meaningful this year than in past years).
If Arena does opt to rotate elsewhere, look for Tajon Buchanan or Diego Fagundez to come into the midfield.
Referee: As of this writing, PRO has not announced referees for today’s MLS games.
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?: Probably just a can of Pamplemousse LaCroix, but maybe not!
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