D.C. United heads to the west coast for the only time during the 2021 regular season, as they face the San Jose Earthquakes in what may be the latest kickoff of a game in team history. It’s also a game that could be dramatic: United’s pressure and willingness to create physical duels will be met by Matias Almeyda’s notorious man-marking system in a game that has all the signs of being a battle.
Throw in some traditional #MLSAfterDark vibes, and we might be in for a deeply weird match tonight.
Key player: Julian Gressel
United has struggled to create that many chances, but Gressel is one player they have been able to get into dangerous spots. He’s among the league leaders in crosses, which is a mixed bag of an indicator. On one hand, you want him putting crosses in, because he’s good at it. On the other, what kind of crosses are we talking here? So far this year, the balance is a little more towards deep crosses when the defense has had time to get set, rather than dangerous early crosses while they’re still scrambling or something closer to a cutback.
Facing a team with some uncertainty at left back and that will give away space because of their man-marking system, United needs to be finding Gressel in transition. From there, he’s got to manufacture looks where he’s crossing in behind the defense while they’re on the run. The attack is going to succeed based on mobility and people making good runs, and this should be the kind of opportunity this team carves out on a more regular basis. Hopefully, tonight starts a trend of seeing that on a reliable basis.
Location: PayPal Park (San Jose, CA)
Kickoff time: 11:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (3421) - Chris Seitz; Brendan Hines-Ike, Frederic Brillant, Tony Alfaro; Julian Gressel, Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, Joseph Mora; Edison Flores, Yamil Asad; Nigel Robertha
Bench: Jon Kempin, Andy Najar, Felipe Martins, Moses Nyeman, Adrien Perez, Kimarni Smith, Erik Sorga
United still has 11 players unavailable, and a twelfth (Jovanny Bolivar) is on loan with Loudoun and wouldn’t be eligible for DCU anyway due to the international roster spot situation.
So, we know the gameday squad, because there are only 18 players available. With this game being played on grass, Najar should be back in uniform, and the only other change we’re wondering about is whether Robertha or Sorga will be up front.
Otherwise, this seems like the group right now. One important factor tonight isn’t so much the lineup, but the execution. If Asad ends up dropping off so often this becomes more 3511 than 3421 (as was the case last week), the attack will probably struggle to create chances again, so that’s a situation to keep a keen eye on.
Projected San Jose starting 11: (4231) - JT Marcinkowski; Tommy Thompson, Florian Jungwirth, Osvaldo Alanis, Paul Marie; Eric Remedi, Jackson Yueill; Carlos Fierro, Chofis Lopez, Cristian Espinoza; Cade Cowell
Chris Wondolowski is suspended after a late red card, but that probably wasn’t going to impact this starting lineup (he’s a super-sub now). Almeyda only has a few uncertainties in this eleven. The Quakes started their opener with Luciano Abecasis and Marcos Lopez as their starting fullbacks, but injuries have left both questionable, while Thompson and Marie have done a solid job since stepping in.
Another possibility is Judson coming in for Remedi in central midfield, while last week Almeyda flipped Espinoza with Fierro. Normally that would seem like a one-off for FC Dallas, but they’re also playing with a back three, and Espinoza’s expected goals last week were 2.15 just on his own, so there’s a compelling reason for him to keep the Argentine over on the left.
Referee: Kevin Stott
Available TV: NBC Sports Washington, 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?: This week’s Filibuster spends plenty of time talking about this Quakes team, including the danger presented by Espinoza and Cowell. We’ll also have more on what to expect from San Jose later this morning on the site.
What are you drinking?: A lot of people are going to say coffee, but this kickoff time is right up my alley. Cherry-lime seltzer is the way to go, post-game is looking like a Bells Land of the Lakes Bohemian pilsner.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos late-night weirdness!
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