Tonight at RFK, D.C. United is almost looking at "Mission: Impossible," having to overcome a 5-2 deficit from the first leg against LD Alajuelense. Last week's loss in Costa Rica was a chastening experience for the club and for fans alike. La Liga's speed down the flanks exploited a confused, not-up-to-full-speed United, and though the Black-and-Red were able to create plenty of scoring looks it's safe to say that the scoreline was fair.
To stage a comeback, United needs a near-perfect game. When the scoring chances come - particularly early chances - DC needs to put them away. Despite the required attacking mindset meaning less support, the defending needs to be strong throughout. United is going to need to be both excellent and very lucky to make this thing happen.
Kickoff time: 8:00pm EST
Venue: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (Washington, DC)
TV/Streaming: Fox Sports 2 has the game in English. Your streaming options are FoxSoccer2Go and FoxSportsGo in English, and the Univision Deportes app in Spanish. Repretel En Vivo will provide the Costa Rican feed, though I'm not sure which of the channels (4, 6, or 11) will carry the game for those inclined.
D.C. United Projected Starting 11: The good news is that Bill Hamid is reportedly fit enough to play, so he'll step in for Andrew Dykstra. I don't see the back four changing, so it'll be Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, and Taylor Kemp at the back. I personally would like to see United make a change in central midfield to get one more attack-minded player on the field. It wouldn't surprise me to see Perry Kitchen paired with Michael Farfan in central midfield, with Nick DeLeon and Chris Rolfe in their normal roles out wide. Fabian Espindola and Chris Pontius will continue as the strike pairing up top.
As for subs, I think Jairo Arrieta comes in around the hour mark for Pontius in nearly every scenario I can dream up. I think United will need a goal in the final 15-20 minutes, so I'd expect Miguel Aguilar to come on (either for DeLeon or for Farfan, with DeLeon moving inside). The last sub probably depends on whether there's any chance of a victory late. If there's still some hope, we might see Conor Doyle subbing in to allow for an aerial bombardment. If it's clear that Alajuelense has sealed the deal, look for someone like Rolfe or DeLeon being subbed off to save their legs for Saturday...assuming there's a game Saturday, that is.
Match previews: We looked at United's potential lineup as well as LDA's likely starters. We also used our scouting report to discuss the errors United made and how to fix things. Our staff predictions unanimously see the Black-and-Red winning the battle but losing the war. Over at The Washington Post, Steve Goff talked to Ben Olsen, who says he expects better from his team than we saw in the first leg. MLSsoccer has a preview up as well.
What are you drinking?: I'm probably going to grab a cup of coffee in Eastern Market before heading over to RFK, and there may or may not be bourbon for Lot 8. From there, it'll probably be rain water because this game is going to be a wet one.
This is your place for pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.