D.C. United is looking to end a three-game home stand on a winning note as they host the Philadelphia Union this evening. As much as United has managed to show some promise under Hernán Losada, positive steps in the process don’t grant you points in the table. The Black-and-Red want to make Audi Field a fortress, and the only way to do that is to beat whoever shows up to play them.
It’s also a big game in terms of United’s attempts to show they’ve turned over a new leaf. After years of narrowly getting the better of a physical series, the Black-and-Red in recent years have had no answer for Philadelphia. Since an April 1, 2017 2-1 win at RFK Stadium, United’s form against the Union (outside of the Open Cup, anyway) is nothing short of horrific: in eight MLS meetings since then, Philadelphia has scored 24 goals on D.C., and last year’s 2-2 draw snapped a run of seven straight Union victories.
Key player: Paul Arriola
Arriola made his first start after recovering from a quad injury picked up on loan with Swansea, and he immediately looked at home in Losada’s system. It’s not clear where Losada thinks Arriola fits into the lineup in ideal circumstances: he started as a wingback in part to give Julian Gressel a rest last week, and moved into an attacking midfield role after halftime.
So long term, knowing where Losada wants to deploy Arriola long-term is pretty fascinating, and it feels like we’ll learn more about that today with more United players available on gameday than we’ve seen all year. But short-term, United just needs him to build on the threat he was against Orlando, because beating the defending Shield winners is going to take the best performance D.C. has put together this year.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 7:15pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (3412) - Jon Kempin; Brendan Hines-Ike, Frederic Brillant, Tony Alfaro; Julian Gressel, Junior Moreno, Russell Canouse, Joseph Mora; Paul Arriola; Edison Flores, Adrien Perez
Bench: Chris Seitz, Donovan Pines, Andy Najar, Felipe Martins, Moses Nyeman, Drew Skundrich, Yamil Asad, Kevin Paredes, Ola Kamara
United could have as many as 25 players available tonight, which feels wild after weeks of having 15-16 players in total. It also means selection dilemmas: which of the four viable starting central midfielders gets the nod? After spending a few minutes on it and coming to an internal standstill, I straight up polled the B&RU chat to predict Moreno, but it feels like any of him, Nyeman, or Felipe could partner Canouse. What about left wingback? And where do you put Arriola now that Gressel has gotten the rest United was hoping for via rotation last weekend?
United has four players officially listed as out, and while Bill Hamid was promoted to questionable, Hernán Losada told media that he’s out as well. Still, several healthy players won’t be in uniform no matter how you slice it. It does sound like Pines will be able to suit up for the first time all season, though with him and Najar both listed as questionable, we could instead see Griffin Yow or Kimarni Smith on the bench instead.
Projected Philadelphia starting 11: (4312) - Andre Blake; Olivier Mbaizo, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Kai Wagner; Alejandro Bedoya, José Martinez, Jamiro Monteiro; Anthony Fontana; Kacper Przybylko, Cory Burke
Jim Curtin has a pretty short injury report right now, but one (Ilsinho) has tormented United throughout his time in MLS, and another (Jack McGlynn) might have been a starter in the midfield if not for a concussion.
There are only a couple of question marks in this set-up: does Martinez walk back into the side after a red card suspension, or does Leon Flach start instead? Flach could also play on the left side of the diamond, with Monteiro moving into the attacking midfield spot and Fontana starting on the bench. Finally, the minutes up front have been very evenly split between Burke and Sergio Santos; it’s a virtual coin toss to determine who Curtin starts up top with Przybylko.
Referee: Tim Ford
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?: Did a whole dang Filibuster entirely about this game.
What are you drinking?: It’s going to be the first hot weather game of the year, so multiple rounds of cold water. Don’t forget, you can bring a sealed bottle of water in with you as well.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos finally beating the doopers!
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