D.C. United’s preseason trip to Florida has mostly gone well. They’ve scored plenty of goals on lower-level opposition, and played evenly with two Eastern Conference playoff teams. Today against the Philadelphia Union, they’ll look to keep making forward progress against the only team to hold them to fewer than two goals this winter. The ideal performance heading into the MLS season opener includes no injuries, better team shape, and an ability to dictate the terms to a Union team that is expecting to be back in the postseason this year.
Key player: Sean Franklin
It seems more and more that the offseason buzz - buzz we doubted for quite a while, it has to be said - has turned out to be true. It appears that Ben Olsen is most likely going to start Franklin at center back when the MLS season gets underway. The thought process appears to be this: United plays a more open style, which means more sprinting for their center backs, and opponents are going to attempt fewer crosses because United isn’t sitting so deep.
Both of those give Franklin an advantage over Bobby Boswell, and with Steve Birnbaum around the Black-and-Red should still be strong in the air. It also helps that Olsen has confidence in Nick DeLeon at right back, and draft pick Chris Odoi-Atsem will provide depth once fit. However, Franklin’s ability to deal with physical strikers - CJ Sapong and newcomer Jay Simpson fit the bill for Philly - will ultimately be a major factor as to whether this experiment continues, or if Boswell returns to the first 11.
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 today’s game.