D.C. United will be looking to climb further up the Eastern Conference standings tonight as they host the Chicago Fire. Coming off of a 1-1 draw against the Red Bulls that probably should have been a win, United will be looking to compound the recent tough times for the Fire, who have lost three of their last four and are in desperate need of wins if they’re going to stage a late playoff push.
Key player: Paul Arriola
United has made a strong habit of starting extremely fast at home, and Chicago is coming off of a game where they were down 2-0 after six minutes. We should expect the Black-and-Red to stomp the accelerator from the jump, and Arriola will be a major factor leading the charge.
High pressing is obviously a big factor for United in terms of setting the tone, but so too is having the right intensity, and complimenting all of that with an end product is key. Arriola will likely have Andy Najar behind him and Edison Flores joining him in the front three — not-so-fun fact: United’s two Designated Players have been on the field at the same time for 112 minutes this year, most of which came in the 1-0 loss to Orlando in May — so expectations have to be that United will be giving Chicago their best shot.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (343) - Jon Kempin; Andy Najar, Steven Birnbaum, Donovan Pines; Julian Gressel, Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, Kevin Paredes; Paul Arriola, Ola Kamara, Edison Flores
Bench: Chris Seitz, Frédéric Brillant, Tony Alfaro, Joseph Mora, Felipe Martins, Drew Skundrich, Yamil Asad, Yordy Reyna, Ramón Ábila
Let’s start with a problem: we don’t have an injury report, so this entire section may need to be modified later today. We’re working under the assumption that the only changes for United on that front are that Pines and Arriola are no longer listed, and that players who were on loan with Loudoun are not going to be involved due to the Covid-19 outbreak United’s USL affiliate is enduring right now.
It seems very likely that Flores, Moreno, and Najar will all be good to go after getting the weekend to recuperate from international duty, and that’s probably it for the rotation involved. There are three spots beyond theirs that might be up for grabs, though: could Bill Hamid be back, or will Kempin continue in goal? And is Pines ready for another start so quickly after missing two months? Finally, will Kamara be held out to some degree tonight with an eye on the trip to Atlanta on Saturday?
Obviously we think the three answers are no, yes, and no, but they’re all spots to look out for, with Hamid, Alfaro, and Ábila the most likely to step in if we’re wrong.
Projected Chicago starting 11: (352) - Bobby Shuttleworth; Carlos Terán, Mauricio Pineda, Francisco Calvo; Boris Sekulic, Fabian Herbers, Federico Navarro, Luka Stojanovic, Miguel Navarro; Robert Beric, Ignacio Aliseda
This is a tough one, because Raphaël Wicky’s team has lost three of four, is constantly rotating and experimenting, and is playing three games in eight days (all on the road). Calvo probably slots in after returning from international duty, which leaves Miguel Navarro and Jonathan Bornstein vying for the left wingback role. Over on the other side, we could see Jhon Espinoza get the nod over Sekulic, who was one of three players yanked at halftime on the weekend in a 2-0 loss in Kansas City.
New acquistion Federico Navarro could get his first start after showing some urgency that Chicago’s possession-oriented midfield has lacked at times, but it really could be any of him, Stojanovic, Gaston Giménez, or Álvaro Medrán vying for two central midfield roles. Up top, meanwhile, Beric has struggled, and we may see Wicky rotate in Chinoso Offor. Aliseda is also a bit of a guess, and that spot could go to any of Stanislav Ivanov, Brian Gutíerrez, or Elliott Collier.
Referee: Dave Gantar
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?: The latest episode of Filibuster’s second half is about the enigma that is the Fire these days.
What are you drinking?: I’ll be in the press box, so by now you know my preference until the temperatures drop: cold brew en route, water at the stadium.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos staying hot at home!
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