D.C. United hosts the first meeting of the 2021 Atlantic Cup tonight, as they host their arch-rivals the New York Red Bulls. Both teams are just outside of the playoff spots in the East, but they’ve each been in better form in the last six weeks after starting the year slowly. With United now a high-pressing team like the Red Bulls have been for years, this game figures to be a tough-as-nails battle.
player concept: Finishing
We saw a familiar tale play out early in Chicago Wednesday night, with United creating the first three notable chances of the game, and more than enough looks to take a lead into the locker room at Soldier Field. While Bobby Shuttleworth made some good stops, the fact is that United — other than Frédéric Brillant’s early header — also helped him out by shooting at him, or shooting wide.
We’ve taken pains to remind the fanbase that Ola Kamara has been finishing pretty well this season, and it’s no mistake that he has 6 goals. However, United hasn’t been creating a ton of chances for him lately, and while the ideal solution is to set him up for plenty of looks while also getting sharper finishing from the rest of the team, becoming a team that feeds Kamara more regularly is a training ground issue that will require more work.
As such, in a game that seems like it’ll be a battle where chances are at a premium rather than one where both teams get plenty of big opportunities, United needs more clinical finishing. Is that creating for Kamara? Yes. Is that everyone else picking out a corner rather than a goalkeeper? Yes.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (3412) - Bill Hamid; Andy Najar, Frédéric Brillant, Tony Alfaro; Julian Gressel, Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, Kevin Paredes; Yamil Asad; Ola Kamara, Nigel Robertha
Bench: Jon Kempin, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Joseph Mora, Felipe Martins, Moses Nyeman, Drew Skundrich, Griffin Yow, Yordy Reyna, Jovanny Bolívar
The list of questionable players is still long, leaving United with only 17 players who are not on the injury report/away with the USMNT/played last night for Loudoun. However, we’re taking a cautiously optimistic approach here in predicting starts for Najar, Canouse, and Paredes (who are all listed as questionable).
Of that group, Canouse feels the least likely to be ready after a bad tackle took him out last weekend. If he can’t go, look for either Felipe or Nyeman to replace him. If Najar needs to rest, it’s more complicated, with Steven Birnbaum more doubtful than questionable, Odoi-Atsem probably not ready to play more than 45 minutes, and Mora or Alfaro both left-footed. Mora even being a possibility in the back likely requires Paredes to be able to start as well.
Elsewhere, we’re predicting a 3412 based on the Red Bulls’ diamond shape, but it would not be entirely shocking to see a 343 with Reyna or Yow replacing Robertha (who is also listed as questionable again despite playing 90 on Wednesday).
Projected NYRB starting 11: (4312) - Carlos Coronel; Kyle Duncan, Tom Edwards, Amro Tarek, John Tolkin; Cristian Cásseres Jr., Sean Davis, Dru Yearwood; Wikelman Carmona; Fábio, Patryk Klimala
Gerhard Struber said he had specifically rested Cásseres (NYRB’s joint-top scorer with 4 goals) to have him ready for this game, so he’ll probably step in for Frankie Amaya in the midfield. Carmona is expected to start ahead of Caden Clark, who missed time due to an appendectomy but played 36 minutes in their 1-1 draw at TFC on Wednesday. A third midfielder, Yearwood, was subbed off with a knock in that game, but Struber says he’s good to go.
One possible change could be a return from injury for former Georgetown defender Sean Nealis, who could replace Tarek at center back if he can overcome a thigh issue. If Struber wants to rotate more, players like Tom Barlow or Omir Fernandez could step in up front, where Klimala and Fábio have played 85+ minutes in both of NYRB’s games in the last eight days.
Referee: Alan Kelly
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?: Looking like a forecast of 92 and humid today with the minor possibility of thunderstorms existing...so it’s summer in the District. A little cold brew for the drive in, and a lot of water at Audi Field.
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