Mired in last place in MLS’s Eastern Conference and coming off of arguably their worst performance of the season, D.C. United desperately needs a win, and a convincing performance, over the New England Revolution tonight at Audi Field. While the Revs are on a definitively average run of form (2W-2D-2L in their last six games), United — winless in four, a run where they’ve been shut out three times — is in no position to underestimate anyone at the moment.
player concept: Reacting correctly
Ben Olsen pushed a whole lot of chips into the pot after the 1-0 loss in Nashville by offering, for the first time all year, some harsh words about the team he had on the field after a game. There were of course emotions involved there, but there’s also a strategic element to any time a coach decides to go that route: you want a reaction from your players in the next game.
But what kind of reaction does United need? If it’s a purely emotional reaction, it’s easy to imagine the game boiling over, or for too many players to be too desperate to make the big play, leaving gaps and taking risks that aren’t worth taking. It’s very easy to not strike the right balance between channeling the emotions involved here, and end up paying the price.
On the other hand, if the players don’t take Olsen’s message as a challenge, and instead take it as just one more bad thing to happen in 2020, the problem is going to be very different. If United comes out flat or timid tonight, we could easily be looking at a rout.
We’ve seen teams (think the USMNT under Jurgen Klinsmann) simply give up on a coach, or on each other, and that’s why the stakes here feel particularly high. If the squad wants to play for Olsen, they’re going to come out fighting...but possibly thinking too much about the fight and not enough about soccer. If on the other hand we see a flat, disinterested version of United, it’s hard to imagine any way back for this group in 2020.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (442) - Bill Hamid; Chris Odoi-Atsem, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Julian Gressel, Junior Moreno, Moses Nyeman, Yamil Asad; Gelmin Rivas, Ola Kamara
Bench: Chris Seitz, Earl Edwards Jr., Axel Sjöberg, Donovan Pines, Oniel Fisher, Federico Higuain, Griffin Yow, Yordy Reyna, Erik Sorga
As is seemingly always the case, these are the only 20 players Olsen has that are healthy and eligible to play. Six players (including arguably four or five starters) are injured, while Russell Canouse is, for dubious reasons, suspended.
That leaves United with very few options in central midfield. Moreno and Nyeman are the only two naturals there, so it’s hard to predict anything other than them starting. There’s also good reason to suspect the rotation at right back continues.
However, Olsen seemed so frustrated with the performance at Nashville that we could see major changes. Yow for Gressel? Higuain for Rivas? A start for Reyna after just a couple training sessions? It could be all of the above.
Projected New England starting 11: (4231) - Matt Turner; Brandon Bye, Andrew Farrell, Henry Kessler, DeJuan Jones; Matt Polster, Kelyn Rowe; Teal Bunbury, Tommy McNamara, Gustavo Bou; Adam Buksa
Bruce Arena has been rotating pretty consistently, so based on their previous lineups, we may see a few changes from the norm (e.g. McNamara in for Lee Nguyen, Buksa’s return as a starter, Polster over Scott Caldwell). One change that feels like a sure thing: Jones at left back instead of Alexander Büttner, who pulled his hamstring early in their mid-week win over Montreal.
Referee: As of the time this was written, PRO hasn’t announced today’s 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 are you drinking?: All signs point to press box bottled water.
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