D.C. United is looking to combine results and performance as they take on Toronto FC today at BMO Field. United won its first two games of the season without playing particularly well, while possession that drew praise from head coach Hernán Losada resulted in a shutout loss at home last week against Chicago. They’ll face a TFC side that has just one point from their opening three games, but amid a significant rebuild, the Reds have shown flashes of some serious promise.
Key player: Julian Gressel
TFC are down their preferred left back Jacob Shaffelburg due to injury, and just traded Kemar Lawrence to Minnesota. They’ve had to significantly shuffle the deck in the back in every single game due to injuries or suspension, and that figures to be the case again today.
We’re highlighting Gressel, but really the issue here is how United frees him up. Per FBRef, Gressel is just one cross attempt off the league lead, but the locations of those crosses are coming from a bit deeper, with defenses more static. Last year, United were outstanding at working triangles on the right to free Gressel up to drive service in behind scrambling defenses, and they reaped the rewards as one of the league’s highest-scoring teams.
If United can cook up that kind of attacking moment on a regular basis today, the chances will be there to power past TFC and get back to winning ways.
Location: BMO Field (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
Kickoff time: 3:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (343) - Bill Hamid; Andy Najar, Brendan Hines-Ike, Steven Birnbaum; Julian Gressel, Drew Skundrich, Sofiane Djeffal, Brad Smith; Edison Flores, Ola Kamara, Adrien Perez
Bench: Jon Kempin, Donovan Pines, Tony Alfaro, Gaoussou Samaké, Russell Canouse, Moses Nyeman, Ted Ku-DiPietro, Griffin Yow, Nigel Robertha
Believe it or not, United is missing zero (0) players to injury. It feels like this isn’t allowed by MLS rules, but we’re here. Russell Canouse is on the team’s social media boarding the plane, and the injury report is just empty. It’s beautiful.
However, that’s not to say everyone is available. Michael Estrada is away for a family matter in Ecuador, while United has four players (Jacob Greene, Kimarni Smith, Hayden Sargis, Jeremy Garay) on loan with Loudoun United today. Curiously, though, United — even with Canouse traveling — has seemingly prepared for some contingencies. We’re told Ted Ku-DiPietro flew with United, while Loudoun’s Azaad Liadi appears to be in Ontario as well. There may be a fitness test looming for someone before the game.
In any case, with the international break looming, United might play it safe with Canouse, and with Hernán Losada saying he saw progress last week, don’t expect major changes.
Projected TFC starting 11: (5221) - Alex Bono; Jakheel Marshall-Rutty, Carlos Salcedo, Michael Bradley, Kadin Chung, Luca Petrasso; Noble Okello, Jonathan Osorio; Alejandro Pozuelo, Jayden Nelson; Jesús Jiménez
This is a tricky call, for a few reasons. Will Bob Bradley revert to a back four at home, or did TFC’s improved start last week buy the back five a bit more time? And can he even make that call, or will Chris Mavinga being questionable scuttle the idea of moving Michael Bradley back into the midfield?
Shane O’Neill was dropped for CPL pick-up MacNaughton last week, but Mexico national team defender Carlos Salcedo is back from suspension, so expect the former RSL man to step back in. Highly touted youngster Marshall-Rutty appears to be fit after a major injury scare forced him out of last week’s loss in Columbus.
If Bradley wants to return to a 4231, look for Bradley to move into central midfield, with Okello losing his spot to a winger like Ifunanyachi Achara or Deandre Kerr. That may also see MacNaughton, Chung, and O’Neill all vying for one center back spot alongside Salcedo, assuming Mavinga is not available again.
Referee: Ramy Touchan
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 Filibuster was all about the current state of the Reds, and what United needs to do to come back with three points.
What are you drinking?: I have double-game duty today, with the Spirit kicking off the Challenge Cup this evening, so I think a glass of cold brew is in order to push through.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos pre-Taxi victory!
Black and Red United has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Black and Red United and Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our guiding principles.