On one hand, D.C. United has made a clear decision on strongly prioritizing the playoffs by sending the barest of bare squads down to Panama to take on Tauro FC. It makes sense to establish a playoff travel pattern and to continue working with a group of starters that still isn't firing on all cylinders without Luis Silva and Chris Rolfe.
On the other hand, United enters this game as the CONCACAF Champions League's #4 seed, and must win to guarantee a spot as one of the higher seeds for the quarterfinal round this coming spring. Given the schedule and relative quality of the other teams looking at seeding later tonight and over the next two days after this, a draw could realistically see the Black-and-Red drop to 6th or 7th in the seeding. That would put United at risk for a quarterfinal against Mexican powers Pachuca or Club America, which as we've seen throughout CCL history is not a good omen. MLS teams don't have a good history of success when sending the bottom of their roster to play a game without their head coach, either. Fortune has smiled on United throughout the CCL run, but this is pushing it.
Kickoff Time: 8:00pm Eastern
Venue: Estadio Rommel Fernandez (Panama City, Panama)
TV/Streaming: In English, the game will be on Fox Soccer Plus and streaming on FoxSoccer2Go. Before you make your normal jokes about Fox Soccer Plus being possibly not a real thing, note that this week many providers are offering a one-week free preview. Double-check your listings, because it's both CCL and Fox we're talking here, but this might be nice. I've also seen the game listed as showing in Spanish on Univision Deportes, but my FIOS listings turn up a different CCL match at 8pm there. The Univision Deportes app should also work. Under no circumstances will links to illegal streams be tolerated on Black and Red United. They will be deleted and we can ban people.
Projected D.C. United starting XI: The word is that United is sending a fourteen-man squad - including calling in the MLS pool goalkeeper, who at last check was former Chivas USA backup Tim Melia - under the leadership of Chad Ashton down to Panama for this one. That makes it pretty easy to pick the starting eleven: Joe Willis in goal; a back four of Nana Attakora, Conor Shanosky, Kofi Opare, and Alex Caskey; a midfield featuring Samuel Inkoom on the right, Jared Jeffrey and Lewis Neal in the middle, and Kyle Porter down the left. Up front, David Estrada will probably be partnered by Michael Seaton.
Expect to see Collin Martin get major minutes for either Neal (if we're losing) or Seaton (if we're winning). The other sub, Jalen Robinson, should be given some minutes as well. After all, it's kind of mean to make a guy fly to Panama just to sit the bench for 90 minutes before going home. Hopefully he gets in at right back, his natural position.
Match previews: Ben has his own lineup prediction, while our staff is torn between a win or a draw as the predicted result. We also sent a short squad out for this one, so to speak, and you hopefully spent all day reading the torrent of material we offered up on other subjects instead of working.
Elsewhere, friend-of-the-blog Alicia Rodriguez previewed the match at MLSsoccer.com, and the hardest working man in sports Dave Johnson hopes United's youngsters benefit from the experience in his piece for CSN Washington.
Prediction: I have a bad feeling about sending a bare-bones squad to a game without a head coach. Call it Backe Syndrome. Tauro has really disappointed this year in all competitions, but they'll be hosting an unfamiliar eleven that is fully aware of the low level of importance placed on this game by their bosses. I don't expect to lose thanks to Tauro's lack of quality, but I don't expect to win either. 1-1, with Estrada scoring for United.
What are you drinking? It's time for to add more porters to my diet, and I happen to have some leftover Yuengling Porter from a Sunday spent watching the NFL and being overrun by a toddler at a friend's.
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