D.C. United was prepared to play Alianza FC, but the Capital Cup has seen another change, and instead the Black-and-Red will play a second leg against LD Alajuelense this evening. Alianza reportedly had a positive Covid-19 test within their camp, and out of an abundance of caution, United and LDA will face off in what is now an aggregate series rather than the initial four-team tournament (Club Puebla of Liga MX had a Covid-19 outbreak before they even left Mexico, and did not travel as a result).
As such, tonight’s game will operate on the following terms: the aggregate is 1-0 after United won on Wednesday. If Alajuelense wins by 2+ goals, they’ll take home the trophy (there is a trophy, your humble author has seen it). If United wins, or if the game tonight is a draw, the trophy stays at Audi Field. In the event of a one-goal win for La Liga (by any total, so 6-5 or 1-0 are the same for this situation), the Capital Cup will go to penalty kicks.
In other words, let’s get weird.
Key player: Nigel Robertha
For the first time with both strikers healthy and no need to rotate for a mid-week game, Robertha got the nod over Ola Kamara against Toronto FC, and as you’ll see below, it looks like he’ll start tonight. Is he actually ahead of Kamara in Hernán Losada’s ideal lineup, though? A portion of the fanbase is screaming “YES!” at this question, but there’s a strong reason to argue that this is still, at the least, a competition. Kamara (5 goals and 2 assists in 355 minutes) is playing his best soccer since joining the club at the moment.
So games like this are crucial for Robertha, who has scored a class goal in two straight MLS appearances, to bolster his case. We need to see more of the early movement that he’s used to sell defenders on a step high just as United looks in behind for him, but we also need to see more consistent danger throughout his time. Robertha’s goals have come early, and from there he’s arguably become less of a threat off the ball. This is a good opportunity for Robertha to take charge of a game for long spells.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 5:30pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (343) - Bill Hamid; Steven Birnbaum, Frédéric Brillant, Tony Alfaro; Jacob Greene, Felipe Martins, Moses Nyeman, Joseph Mora; Griffin Yow, Nigel Robertha, Yamil Asad
Bench: Jon Kempin, Brendan Hines-Ike, Andy Najar, Julian Gressel, Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, Kevin Paredes, Adrien Perez, Kimarni Smith, Yordy Reyna, Ola Kamara
We first reported that today’s lineup would be a more familiar one for United. And then yesterday, Steven Goff took it one step further, posting the actual planned starting eleven:
United starting lineup Sunday: Hamid, Greene, Brillant, Birnbaum, Alfaro, Mora, Felipe, Nyeman, Yow, Asad, Robertha#dcu— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) July 10, 2021
We don’t have an updated gameday roster for United, other than knowing that it’s been substantially changed. It’s not 100% clear that the bench won’t be bolstered by someone not mentioned, but with Loudoun United in action later today as well, most of the call-ups from Wednesday will probably be suiting up for Ryan Martin rather than Losada.
Alajuelense roster: Here’s a reminder of their roster, which remains unchanged from Wednesday.
Available TV: NBC Sports Washington
Available streaming: NBCSW cable subscribers can stream the game on the NBCSW site, but no stream on the team site or anywhere else that we know of.
What are you drinking?: Back on my normal gameday BS: cold brew before I hit the highway, water once I finish climbing the many stairs up to the press box.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos continued injury avoidance!