D.C. United, after facing three straight difficult road games, is hoping to get back to winning ways as they host the struggling Chicago Fire tonight on Buzzard Point. While United were struck by some moments of bad luck in losing three straight, they still may be slight favorites against a Fire side that has gone ten games without a win in MLS.
Key player: Julian Gressel
There are two things about United that line up favorably with Chicago right now: the Fire have struggled against teams that high press, and they’ve had trouble defending on the left flank. The pressing aspect is a team concept, and since this is “key player” and not “key team concept,” let’s focus on the second weakness.
United has gotten more of their key passes from Gressel than anyone else, and if Chicago can’t defend down that side of the field, he’s going to get his chances to provide service. However, those chances will only count if Gressel’s final ball is sharper than it was at Columbus, where he and just about every other DCU player struggled to put the ball in dangerous spots.
Between his movement and set pieces, Gressel should have plenty of moments where things are favorable for him, but against the Crew, the Black-and-Red wasted too many of those windows. If United’s going to win tonight, that can’t happen.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (3412) - Chris Seitz; Brendan Hines-Ike, Frederic Brillant, Tony Alfaro; Julian Gressel, Junior Moreno, Moses Nyeman, Adrien Perez; Yamil Asad; Edison Flores, Kimarni Smith
Bench: Jon Kempin, Andy Najar, Joseph Mora, Felipe Martins, Drew Skundrich, Kevin Paredes, Griffin Yow, Paul Arriola, Ola Kamara
United, at long last, got some good news on the injury front: Four players (Arriola, Mora, Paredes, and Yow) have been upgraded to questionable, while Hines-Ike was taken off the injury report entirely after missing out against Columbus due to an eye injury. Meanwhile, Steven Goff from the Washington Post is reporting that Arriola and Paredes are both likely to dress.
Hines-Ike is probably the one change to the lineup as a result, stepping in for Najar. We could see Mora make his return on the left over Perez as well, while United will also likely have Skundrich in uniform after signing him yesterday. If any of the questionable players can’t go, United even has one more player available to have a full bench, with Michael DeShields also available.
Projected Chicago starting 11: (4231) - Bobby Shuttleworth; Boris Sekulic, Johan Kappelhof, Francisco Calvo, Jonathan Bornstein; Gaston Giménez, Mauricio Pineda; Przemyslaw Frankowski, Luca Stojanovic, Chinoso Offor; Robert Beric
Raphael Wicky has been cycling through players throughout the season. With the Fire in a ten-game winless streak going back to last year, it makes sense, but it’s hard to gauge starters at certain spots. Shuttleworth is standing in for the injured Kenneth Kronholm, but after that it gets a little uncertain as to one center back spot, one holding midfielder, and the left winger.
We’re going with Kappelhof alongside Calvo with Pineda in midfield, but one issue here is that Wicky seems unsure how to get Alvaro Medrán into a position where he can thrive. He’s played the 8, out on the left, and as the 10, but last week he was stuck on the bench for most of the game. If he starts, Pineda and Kappelhof are playing for one spot, but those two could also flip, with Pineda at the back and Kappelhof in the midfield (where he played last week).
Ignacio Aliseda is the normal starting left winger, but he’s out with an injury too. Offor, Medrán, Elliott Collier, and maybe even Miguel Angel Navarro could all be options there. It’s all fairly hard to get a handle on, because Wicky himself is having a hard time sorting it out.
Referee: Ramy Touchan
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?: The latest Filibuster spent plenty of time on what’s up with Chicago right now.
What are you drinking?: I might get wild and crazy in the press box and crack open a can of Coke in the press box, but if not it’ll be water.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos home success!
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