D.C. United, coming off of two tough road losses, will be looking to bounce back tonight as they host Atlanta United. The Black-and-Red took early leads in Nashville and New England, but couldn’t make either stand up, and now face an Atlanta side that has suddenly won three straight under interim head coach Rob Valentino. With ATL finally playing up to their talent level, a game that seemed like it might be easier for United is suddenly quite important in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Key player: Edison Flores
Wednesday night, for a half at least, we got to see what Flores can do in United’s system. When the Black-and-Red forced turnovers and attacked in transition, Flores thrived, finding huge gaps between the lines to send runners into dangerous positions. Flores also had five shots, and was generally at the center of everything United did going forward.
Given how much injuries and a lack of clarity in how the team planned to use him has disrupted his time here, that’s the standard United needs from Flores: a constantly involved, all-around attacking threat. If United presses like we know they can, the disorganized defenses will be there. From there, the team needs to find Flores, and F
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (343) - Jon Kempin; Andy Najar, Steven Birnbaum, Tony Alfaro; Julian Gressel, Moses Nyeman, Junior Moreno, Kevin Paredes; Yamil Asad, Ola Kamara, Edison Flores
Bench: Chris Seitz, Chris-Odoi-Atsem, Joseph Mora, Felipe Martins, Russell Canouse, Drew Skundrich, Griffin Yow, Yordy Reyna, Ramón Ábila
Based on minutes played in this brutal week, plus some player availability news, this is our guess for tonight. The 343 feels very likely, but there are questions from there. Paredes and Najar are both uncertain, while just minutes ago, Frédéric Brillant declared himself out in an Instagram post. We’re listing Paredes and Najar as starters, but Odoi-Atsem and Mora could easily end up starting instead, and we can’t rule out Jacob Greene being in uniform if either of that first pair end up in the stands.
Otherwise though, the regulars who didn’t start in New England seem certain to come back in. That means Gressel, Moreno, Kamara for sure, and given the midfield rotation patterns, we can probably expect Nyeman or Skundrich in central midfield as well.
Here’s the full injury report:
Projected Atlanta starting 11: (3511) - Brad Guzan; Miles Robinson, Alan Franco, Anton Walkes; Ronald Hernández, Luiz Araújo, Amar Sejdić, Marcelino Moreno, George Bello; Ezequiel Barco; Josef Martínez
Rob Valentino’s final game as interim boss comes with some absences in central midfield, where the above injury report has to be paired with reports from Atlanta that Santiago Sosa and Franco Ibarra are out rather than questionable. Sejdić seems to have the edge over Rossetto, so he’s probably the deep-lying midfielder, but in truth it’s not a natural fit.
There’s also the rotation issue due to having a schedule just as condensed as United’s. Mikey Ambrose could replace Bello at left wingback, while this lineup is in part guessing that Hernández would rotate in for Brooks Lennon on the right. George Campbell could come in for any of the back three, while Rossetto could partner Sejdić if Araújo or Moreno need a break.
Atlanta’s formation is a bit fluid, and can be this 3511, a 3421 (with Moreno moving up with Barco), or a 3331 with Araújo, Barco, and Moreno setting up as a tight trio of attacking midfielders underneath Martínez.
Referee: Nima Saghafi
Available TV: NBC Sports Washington, TeleXitos
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For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What are you drinking?: I’ll be back in the press box, which means I’m probably going with a very predictable duo: cold brew on my way in, water in the press box.
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