D.C. United is on the road again this evening, as they head up I-95 to take on NYCFC at their temporary home at Red Bull Arena. Both teams have climbed into playoff positions in the Eastern Conference thanks to good transition attacking play, and a tendency to produce gameplans that unsettle opponents every week.
There’s data pointing to a good reason for this game, much like the season opener for both clubs, to be extremely tight: per American Soccer Analysis, these are the two teams with the lowest expected goals conceded thus far in the season. With both teams using pressure in different ways and in different locations on the field to disrupt opposing attacking moves, this game figures to be a tactical battle that may hinge on which team makes the biggest mistake.
player concept: Finding a different kind of scoring chance
We all have the same idea here. United dominated Montreal, took 27 shots, and did not score. The natural idea here is that all that’s missing is the finish, which drove us all nuts, and so anyone that can finish is the key player.
But as we talked about on Thursday, who shoots matters. United needs to open things up so that more of their chances can fall to strikers than wingers and creators. Yes, those guys can score too, but the odds go up when strikers are getting more of the shots. United needs to make sure Ola Kamara and Nigel Robertha are not stuck having to mostly make runs to pull the defense out of position for someone else over and over again.
I’ll add one more category here: Set pieces. United hasn’t been particularly dangerous of late, though they did have at least one great look for Brendan Hines-Ike on Wednesday. But, this is a team with Donovan Pines, too, and ideally we see some more set piece design to get their best targets isolated, and some better service (like what Yamil Asad brought late in the Miami game).
Location: Red Bull Arena (Harrison, NJ)
Kickoff time: 6:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (3421) - Bill Hamid; Andy Najar, Brendan Hines-Ike, Donovan Pines; Julian Gressel, Russell Canouse, Felipe Martins, Kevin Paredes; Paul Arriola, Yordy Reyna; Ola Kamara
Bench: Jon Kempin, Frederic Brillant, Tony Alfaro, Joseph Mora, Moses Nyeman, Yamil Asad, Griffin Yow, Adrien Perez, Nigel Robertha
Given that Hernán Losada didn’t rotate much for Wednesday’s draw, hasn’t rotated that much when previously faced with a game on short rest, and is looking at three full days between matches rather than two, we’re not predicting major changes. United pretty clearly hit a physical wall around the 65th minute midweek, though, so don’t be surprised to see a sub or two at halftime.
In any case, the only change listed here would be Reyna for Perez, and you can probably guess why: United needs some sharper finishing right now. However, the option could be Asad, or Yow, or Robertha (who would probably make this a 3412 instead).
Projected NYCFC starting 11: (4231) - Sean Johnson; Anton Tinnerholm, Maxime Chanot, James Sands, Malte Amundsen; Nicolas Acevedo, Keaton Parks; Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Maxi Moralez, Jesus Medina; Valentin Castellanos
Ronny Deila has mostly played 4231 this season, so that’s our guess, but last month used a back three against Columbus and LAFC. In other words, United should be prepared for both formations. The Pigeons are without Heber due to injury, and Alexander Callens is with Peru for the Copa América.
Tinnerholm and Amundsen only played as subs on Wednesday, so they’ll rotate back into their starting spots. Alfredo Morales could rotate in for Acevedo in central midfield, but the real question is in the attacking midfield line. Moralez only played 31 minutes midweek, so expect him out there, but after that it’s murky. Youngsters Andreas Jasson, Talles Magno, and Thiago Andrade are all in the mix on the flanks.
Referee: Robert Sibiga
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?: There’s a whole new Filibuster that is about 80% about this game, (the other 20% is the Montreal game, and a little beer talk).
What are you drinking?: Back on that grapefruit seltzer, y’all. Post-game, it’ll be a can or two of Sapporo.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos getting a bunch of things right, and this time scoring!
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