For just the second time all year, D.C. United faces a Western Conference opponent as they host Minnesota United tonight. While the two teams approach the game very differently, there are some similarities: both sit in 6th place in their respective conferences, and both are on 37 points. United is fourth in expected goal differential in the entire league, while Minnesota is right behind them in fifth.
In other words, both teams should see this as a major test, even if it’s a one-night break from the series of playoff six-pointers that make up most of the rest of the season.
Key player: Donovan Pines
Minnesota’s 29 goals on the year aren’t that impressive, especially compared with United’s 45. However, their underlying data points to a team that should have scored quite a few more goals, which is another way to say they create plenty of chances.
With United’s tendency to press high, Emanuel Reynoso looking to play through balls, and Ethan Finlay’s runs off the ball, Pines (the likely starter at left-center back) is going to have the most difficult assignment. The Black-and-Red take the risk of pushing high, so there will regularly be space in behind, and possibly some defending in isolation to be done. Overcoming the Loons will be more of a defensive test than it would appear on the surface, and Pines will be crucial on that front.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (343) - Bill Hamid; Andy Najar, Steven Birnbaum, Donovan Pines; Julian Gressel, Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, Kevin Paredes; Paul Arriola, Ola Kamara, Yordy Reyna
Bench: Jon Kempin, Frédéric Brillant, Tony Alfaro, Joseph Mora, Felipe Martins, Moses Nyeman, Yamil Asad, Edison Flores, Nigel Robertha
Thanks to the early subs on the weekend, Hernán Losada probably won’t have to rotate much at all for this one. Reyna for Flores (who went 90 against Cincinnati) feels like the most likely one, while it wouldn’t be a shock to see Felipe step in for Moreno, or for Alfaro to get the nod over Pines due to the bigger Eastern Conference game in Orlando on Saturday. Mora for Paredes also feels like a move that could be under consideration.
The injury report only lists three players (Ramón Ábila, Brendan Hines-Ike, and Adrien Perez) as out, with Chris Odoi-Atsem moving up to questionable alongside Drew Skundrich. Yamil Asad has come off the list entirely, and might be a candidate to get some minutes off the bench as a result. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Losada make some earlier subs based on keeping top players fresh for the trip to Florida.
Projected Minnesota starting 11: (4231) - Tyler Miller; Romain Métanire, Michael Boxall, Bakaye Dibassy, Chase Gasper; Jacori Hayes, Wil Trapp; Ethan Finlay, Emanuel Reynoso, Franco Fragapane; Robin Lod
Adrian Heath is not really much for player rotation, so we’re not expecting major changes tonight from a more or less established Loons lineup. The only step away from normalcy in the lineup above would be the Maryland native Hayes giving Ozzie Alonso a rest.
However, if Heath does opt to rotate for this non-conference game, he has options. Adrien Hunou could play up front, as could Fanendo Adi or the fit-again Juan Agudelo. Niko Hansen, also back from injury, could come in on either wing, while Minnesota could deploy Jukka Raitala or DJ Taylor at left back to rest Gasper. Brent Kallman would be a candidate to play center back if Boxall or Dibassy are given the night off.
Referee: Ramy Touchan
Available TV: NBC Sports Washington + (please note the +, it’s not the normal NBCSW), 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 talks about how this game could end up being a bit of a track meet, especially if the Loons don’t rotate Reynoso out. There’s also a Tale from Buzzard Point that relates to this game and is definitely not fictional, no way, no sir.
What are you drinking?: Tomorrow’s forecast is just barely leaning towards cold brew over hot coffee as my choice for the drive in.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos beating the other other United!
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