The last few remaining healthy D.C. United players left face a massive challenge today, as they take on the defending MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew in what will be the Black-and-Red’s last visit to Historic Crew Stadium. United, who are missing nearly half of their roster at the moment due to injuries, will have to dig very deep to repeat last fall’s stunning victory over the Crew.
Key player: Frederic Brillant
One of the last few United players who has not had some kind of injury this year, Brillant is going to have to provide error-free leadership on top of being severely tested in terms of his own defending. The Crew may be goalless in MLS this season, but if you look at their projected lineup, that’s not going to last forever. They’ve got some serious attacking talent, including a potential Best 11 playmaker and a USMNT striker; they’re not champions by accident.
Brillant will lead United out while they’re missing numerous top players in defensive positions, and they’ll have to put aside any excuses and find a way to get the job done. Hernán Losada had mentioned risk avoidance as part of his overall defensive concept heading into the first week of the season, and we may see United’s defending be more simple this week as a result. Given United’s current circumstances, we’re certainly in “whatever it takes” territory.
Location: Historic Crew Stadium (Columbus, OH)
Kickoff time: 1:30pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (3421) - Chris Seitz; Andy Najar, Frederic Brillant, Tony Alfaro; Julian Gressel, Junior Moreno, Moses Nyeman, Joseph Mora; Edison Flores, Yamil Asad; Kimarni Smith
Bench: Jon Kempin, Donovan Pines, Michael DeShields, Felipe Martins, Adrien Perez, Ola Kamara
Last week, we were talking about 11 absentees due to injury, and then got surprised by two more injuries when the lineups came out. This week...well, just read the article. Potential starters Donovan Pines and Ola Kamara are both off the injured list, as is rookie Michael DeShields, but the list was replenished with new injuries.
If that trio of returnees are all in uniform (yesterday Steve Goff said that at least Kamara and DeShields made the trip) and no one else is out, United will have 17 players in uniform.
Erik Sorga’s spot could go to Smith, or Perez, or possibly Kamara depending on his fitness level. If Pines is fit to play, he probably steps in for Brendan Hines-Ike, but right now it appears that it’ll be Najar starting. Moreno and Asad, both pulled off at halftime and Losada noting with some emphasis that the team didn’t take advantage of some things they’d been told would be there in the gameplan, they may be normal starters to keep an eye on. If there’s a change based on performance, Felipe and Perez appear to be the most likely alternatives.
Projected Columbus starting 11: (4231) - Eloy Room; Harrison Afful, Jonathan Mensah, Josh Williams, Waylon Francis; Artur, Darlington Nagbe; Derrick Etienne, Lucas Zelarayan, Pedro Santos; Gyasi Zardes
Caleb Porter got to make a couple of substitutions seemingly based on knowing the Crew’s CCL game mid-week was a lost cause, so unfortunately for United that means players like Afful, Artur, Nagbe, and Zardes are all more likely to start today than we had thought a few days ago. On top of that, Zelarayan was suspended Wednesday, so he’s well-rested for this one. On the other hand, Perry Kitchen, Kevin Molino, Aidan Morris, and Marlon Hairson are all out.
One situation to watch: Milton Valenzuela wasn’t in uniform for their trip to Monterrey, but is off the injury report after dealing with a recent knock. There are also questions on both wings, with Luis Diaz a candidate to start over either Santos or Etienne. Mensah has also been dealing with a hamstring injury recently, so Aboubakar Keita could end up rotating in.
Referee: Silviu Petrescu
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 are you drinking?: I got some cold brew concentrate and condensed milk to make a sort of Vietnamese coffee thing, but now that it’s suddenly gotten cooler out, I might just be making a standard cup of hot coffee instead.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos injury avoidance!
Black and Red United has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Black and Red United and Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our guiding principles.