D.C. United is looking to rebound from a draining, difficult loss as they take on the Chicago Fire in Illinois. United’s climb up MLS’s Eastern Conference standings was slowed by a 2-1 defeat against Philadelphia on the weekend, and after picking up numerous injuries in that game, Hernán Losada’s side will face a Chicago team coming off of arguably their season’s lowest point, a 5-1 capitulation at Nashville.
Key player: Junior Moreno
Fresh off his birthday yesterday (feliz cumple Junior!), Moreno has a very tough task: screening a back three that seems like it will once again see one or two changes for a road game. While the Fire have had a bad year, in their home games they’ve tended to be dangerous going forward, stretching the field and offering some incisive movement.
Particularly with Russell Canouse in doubt for this one, Moreno will have to set the tempo and read the game at a very high level to restrict the fluid position-swapping Chicago prefers from creating danger.
Location: Soldier Field (Chicago, IL)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (343) - Bill Hamid; Andy Najar, Frédéric Brillant, Tony Alfaro; Julian Gressel, Felipe Martins, Junior Moreno, Joseph Mora; Yamil Asad, Ola Kamara, Yordy Reyna
Bench: Jon Kempin, Steven Birnbaum, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Russell Canouse, Moses Nyeman, Drew Skundrich, Griffin Yow, Jovanny Bolívar, Nigel Robertha
Various social media posts let us verify 15 members of United’s traveling squad, so we made sure to plug those names in first. After that...well, it’s tricky. Six players were listed as questionable for this game, including a bunch of options at right-center back and up top, and we’re talking about the second of three games in eight days.
Our guess a tad optimistic, in that we’re including four of the six questionable players in the travel squad (it should be noted that the four we chose are all players not in that social media posts from the plane/Chicago group). But what if all six end up out? Odoi-Atsem might not be ready to play from the start just yet, which opens the door to some really creative positional choices. Could Felipe play in the back three? Or would it be Mora, with one of him or Alfaro being a lefty playing RCB (which in turn means something like Yow as the left wingback)?
None of this factors in the possibility of going to a 3412, with Asad most likely underneath two forwards, or maybe adding a third true central midfielder and playing 352 as a precaution on the road against a Fire team that has put three goals on the board in each of their last three home games. It feels like we’re back in early March!
Projected Chicago starting 11: (3421) - Bobby Shuttleworth; Wyatt Omsberg, Mauricio Pineda, Jonathan Bornstein; Boris Sekulic, Alvaro Medrán, Fabian Herbers, Miguel Angel Navarro; Przymyslaw Frankowski, Ignacio Aliseda; Robert Beric
Chicago is also short-handed at the back, with Johan Kappelhof suspended, Francisco Calvo away for the Gold Cup, and Carlos Terán injured. Most likely, this means Bornstein slotting in on the left of the back three they’ve recently moved to under embattled coach Raphael Wicky (who will also miss this game due to a family matter, meaning Frank Klopas is the acting head coach tonight).
The Fire are in a weird place: they got annihilated in their last game (5-1 at Nashville), but before that they had three straight games at home in which they scored three goals. It’s hard to tell whether the weekend was a blip or a real turn back towards the worst of their 2021.
One major rotation option is on the right, where Sekulic could make way for Jhon Espinoza to freshen the group up. The loss last week was settled so early that players like Beric, Herbers, and Medrán were all subbed off early, so they should be fresh. Another option is to start homegrown attacker Brian Gutiérrez, possibly moving Frankowski into a wingback role. Notable offseason acquisition Stanislav Ivanov is still listed as questionable, but reportedly is set to see his MLS debut off the bench after an injury-derailed season.
Referee: Marcos de Oliveira
Available TV: NBC Sports Washington, TeleXitos
Available streaming: dcunited.com if you live within the team’s geofence. For everyone else, ESPN+ or FuboTV (subscribe via those links, & your friends at B&RU get some cash!).
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 473rd episode of Filibuster concludes with a breakdown of what the Fire are all about right now.
What are you drinking?: After that 4:30am USWNT kickoff, caffeine is a must. Looking like it’ll be a Cherry Coke.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos overcoming the knocks and absences!
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