It’s been a mixed bag for D.C. United of late. They snapped a long winless run and posted two straight shutouts after two straight mistake-strewn losses, but the method that got them there was met with heavy criticism, leaving fans restless. Tonight against the Red Bulls, United will be looking to build on those clean sheets while also putting on more of a show on the attacking end.
player concept: Balance
Ben Olsen pushed back at some of the recent criticism over what were undeniably conservative tactics in the last two games. His narrow point — that United made a tactical choice they felt could get them some points while short-handed, and that it worked — is a fair one to make. It was a tough thing to try to do, and they came out of those games with four points after previously looking quite fragile at the back.
However, neither the players nor the fans enjoyed it, and in truth, defending for that long is not a sustainable plan on a regular basis. On another night, both the Red Bulls and (especially) NYCFC find a goal in the Black-and-Red’s last two matches.
With a more complete squad (United is missing 4 likely starters to injury, but they’re still healthier for tonight than they’ve been in weeks), at home, against a struggling opponent who look pretty down on themselves right now, DCU needs to find the balance. Sitting deep for so long is not what fans want, of course, but it’s also an approach that would allow the Red Bulls to build their confidence up by having control of the run of play. Tonight needs to see United take a step...maybe two steps in that direction.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (352) - Chris Seitz; Donovan Pines, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum; Julian Gressel, Junior Moreno, Mohammed Abu, Yamil Asad, Kevin Paredes; Ulises Segura, Ola Kamara
Bench: Bill Hamid, Joseph Mora, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Oniel Fisher, Moses Nyeman, Griffin Yow, Federico Higuain, Erik Sorga, Gelmin Rivas
Here’s what we know: Paul Arriola, Russell Canouse, Edison Flores, and Felipe Martins are definitely out. Birnbaum is questionable, and after six more days to recover, we’re feeling optimistic that he can return to the lineup. If he can’t, though, Mora is the sure bet to replace him. In goal, Steve Goff is reporting that Seitz is going to start again, even after Olsen said that Hamid was “looking sharp” in the last few days of training.
Speaking of optimism, we’re listing a 352 and not a 541 here both because we’re hopeful that United isn’t going to play the same way again, and because it’s a reasonable approach if the Red Bulls, now under interim coach Bradley Carnell, go back to the 4222 they’ve mostly played this year. If they want to play 4231, Olsen might consider matching that formation, which would most likely mean bringing in Fisher at right back.
Projected Red Bulls starting 11: (4231) - Ryan Meara; Kyle Duncan, Tim Parker, Amro Tarek, Jason Pendant; Cristian Casseres Jr., Florian Valot; Omir Fernandez, Kaku Gamarra, Daniel Royer; Tom Barlow
The Red Bulls still looked a bit demoralized after some recent struggles, and got roasted by Philly as a result. So maybe we see some changes from the team that played in that game, which would include Pendant and Fernandez. It could be more, though, as Barlow and the rest of their defense have left the door open for more moves.
If Carnell wants to return to the box midfield that largely guides the Red Bull soccer teams, it’ll probably mean Royer playing as a forward while Fernandez and Kaku are the two attacking midfielders.
Referee: As of the time this was written, PRO had not yet announced a referee.
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?: We talked about what to expect out of the Red Bulls on this week’s Filibuster, at least once we put the NYCFC experience behind us.
What are you drinking?: I have a strong feeling that my Saturday, following the Spirit game, involves a long drive from Leesburg, and then a fast food drive-thru meal that I eat parked behind Audi Field. So, I guess a fountain Coke and a bottle of water? I don’t know, to be honest.
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