D.C. United has pushed up the Eastern Conference table quickly, and is looking to solidify its hold on 3rd place tonight as they face Orlando City in Florida. While United has won four of its last six games, the Lions have fallen off the pace, losing four straight before Wednesday’s dramatic comeback draw in Nashville. That’s allowed the Black-and-Red to overtake Orlando, but the margins are incredibly thin, as OCSC is one of four teams just one point behind DCU heading into this weekend’s matches.
Key player: Paul Arriola
Arriola has put the ball in the back of the net three times in the last two games, with two counting and another being called back for offside. United has gotten goals from 19 different players this season, which is tremendous, but only Ola Kamara has more than Arriola’s haul of 5 on the season.
As good as Kamara has been — he’s the dang Golden Boot leader! — United needs that reliable second goal threat. With Orlando seemingly willing to take a more pragmatic approach even at home, it’s vital that we see the typically high-energy Arriola performance include dangerous off-the-ball runs to get United’s sole USMNT representative into position to keep that hot streak going.
Location: Exploria Stadium (Orlando, FL)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (343) - Bill Hamid; Andy Najar, Steven Birnbaum, Donovan Pines; Julian Gressel, Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, Joseph Mora; Paul Arriola, Ola Kamara, Edison Flores
Bench: Jon Kempin, Frédéric Brillant, Tony Alfaro, Felipe Martins, Moses Nyeman, Kevin Paredes, Yamil Asad, Yordy Reyna, Nigel Robertha
We’re expecting at least modest rotation, with this being the third game in eight days for United. Flores, Mora, and Moreno stepping in seems likely, but don’t discount the possibility of more changes. Robertha for Kamara, for example, or Brillant or Alfaro in for one of the defenders are both definitely on the table.
United had no new injuries from Wednesday, and with the travel combining with condensed time between games, we don’t have more information than that. So tonight could be a bit of a variable in terms of personnel.
Projected Orlando starting 11: (4231) - Pedro Gallese; Ruan, Antônio Carlos, Robin Jansson, Kyle Smith; Sebas Méndez, Andrés Perea; Silvester van der Water, Nani, Benji Michel; Tesho Akindele
Oscar Pareja did very little rotating in the first two games this week, and given who has played 90 minutes twice in the last eight days already (Daryl Dike, Mauricio Pereyra, both first-choice fullbacks, Júnior Urso), he almost has to make some moves today.
Between that, a suspension for Rodrigo Schlegel, and guys like Uri Rosell and Chris Mueller being questionable, a shift into a 4231 — Orlando has been trying a range of formations lately, but seem to always end up shifting into 4231 late in games — feels likely. But as to who starts...that’s a big mystery. Smith could end up on either side of the back four, depending if Ruan or João Moutinho needs the rest more, while Nani hasn’t been starting of late despite being off the injury report.
Bottom line: the Lions are in rough form, and that leads to a lot of tinkering, which means an uncertain lineup today.
Referee: Guido Gonzales Jr.
Available TV: NBC Sports Washington + (please note the +, it’s not the normal NBCSW), TeleXitos
Feel free to check our our DCU how to watch guide to figure out what your best option is.
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: We spent some time talking over the purple team on the latest episode of Filibuster.
What are you drinking?: I have a range of citrus seltzers available, but I think the next one is going to be lemon.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos getting a clean sweep in this packed stretch of the schedule!
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