D.C. United is looking to build on an important win as they head on the road today to take on the Columbus Crew. After a four-game losing streak and a coaching change, United gutted out a home win over New England, and now they’ll look to continue their progress against a Crew side that has gone four straight games without a goal in MLS play.
Key player: Taxiarchis Fountas
Sometimes this section is easy. Taxi was spectacular in his first United start, and in a way that seemed to unlock the attack. Why? His movement is both constant and really smart, which means defenses have to keep adjusting to him, which cascades into more space for everyone else. I think someone smart said that soccer is a simple game.
With Columbus in a rut, they’ve leaned pragmatic, which means Taxi will have less room to operate in than against a wide-open New England side last week. If they’re going to create the chances they did against the Revs, United will have to be more precise as a result. The combinations were sharp last week, particularly when Fountas connected with Julian Gressel, but they’ll have to be even better to get a win today.
Location: Lower.com Field (Columbus, OH)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (343) - Jon Kempin; Donovan Pines, Steven Birnbaum, Brendan Hines-Ike; Julian Gressel, Russell Canouse, Chris Durkin, Brad Smith; Edison Flores, Ola Kamara, Taxiarchis Fountas
Bench: Luis Zamudio, Tony Alfaro, Drew Skundrich, Sofiane Djeffal, Griffin Yow, Ted Ku-DiPietro, Jackson Hopkins, Kimarni Smith, Michael Estrada
Chad Ashton told reporters Thursday that none of last week’s injured players are back for this week, and added that Nigel Robertha is out after last week’s collision forced him out of the game in the final minutes. On top of that, we’re hearing that Rafael Romo is probably not going to be eligible in time, which means another short-term call-up for Zamudio. United has confirmed to B&RU that Kimarni Smith is not one of the loanees with Loudoun, so we’re counting him in the squad for this one.
Other than all that, Ashton has little reason to change his lineup. Kamara probably comes back in for Estrada up top, but otherwise, a group that got back to winning ways should probably be kept together, right?
Projected Columbus starting 11: (4231) - Eloy Room; Steven Moreira, Jonathan Mensah, Josh Williams, Pedro Santos; Darlington Nagbe, Artur; Yaw Yeboah, Lucas Zelarayán, Derrick Etienne; Miguel Berry
The Crew are on a miserable run, going four straight MLS games without a goal and being eliminated in the Open Cup by USL opposition. However, the lineup at this point appears to pick itself...if Zelarayán is fit. That’s a huge if, as he was questionable last week and didn’t even travel to Kansas City for a 0-0 draw. He’s questionable again this week, so we’re expecting the Crew to give him a go, even if he’s not available to play the full 90.
If not, though, look for Caleb Porter to repeat the very pragmatic approach from last week, where the Crew played a 433 with 3 defensive midfielders, held Sporting to 0.28 expected goals, and pointed to how they’d at least stopped the bleeding with a road point. Porter has also used a diamond here and there recently, and has a few players who can play the 10 if Zelarayán can’t go, but the 433 seems the most likely option.
The other question mark in the team is at centerback, where Miloš Degenek is questionable and missed out last week. Williams seems to be the obvious answer if they have any doubts about the New Zealand international’s ability to play a full match.
Referee: Timothy Ford
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 back half of the latest episode of Filibuster breaks down the Crew’s recent bad run and what DCU can expect tonight.
What are you drinking?: I need to look into getting some beer for post-game, but in the meantime, it’s looking like Limoncello seltzer.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos getting on a roll!
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