D.C. United is back in action this afternoon, taking on the Montreal Impact in first game of the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ Suncoast Invitational. This is the first of two matches United will play at Al Lang Stadium, the Rowdies home, with the middle game being played at the Joe DiMaggio Sports Complex nearby.
As I said in the first version of our minutes tracker, this is not a battle for spots on the roster as it so often has been in years past. However, this game and the two following is a chance for a number of players to lay claim to a starting role. Ian Harkes and Jared Jeffrey are battling for the nod in central midfield, Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, and NIck DeLeon are all battling for two spots in the defense, and Lamar Neagle, Sebastien LeToux, and Jose Ortiz will all try to convince Ben Olsen that they deserve a spot over the incumbents from last year.
Competition across the roster is what has made the good Ben Olsen teams good, and this is shaping up to perhaps be the strongest team yet. It will be fun to watch.
Key player: Ian Harkes
It is cliche to keep naming Ian Harkes my key player, but the box-to-box midfielder is a key role in this formation. Last year, this role was played at various times by Nick DeLeon, Marcelo Sarvas, and Jared Jeffrey. If Ian Harkes is able to grab a starting spot right out of college, he’ll be an immediate upgrade who will only be able to grow into an even better player as he gets MLS experience.
Location: Al Lang Stadium (St. Petersburg, FL)
Kick-off time: 5:00pm Eastern
Available TV: None
Available streaming: Tampa Bay Rowdies Youtube page
Treat this as the gamethread for tonight’s game.