You've likely heard this before, but it bears repeating: D.C. United's record in all competitions in Houston is 0W-1D-11L. It's been six years since that one lonely draw, and since then United has been crushed several times while also losing in farcical fashion more than once as well.
Still, a lot of that has to due with the fact that United was not a good team in nearly all of those seasons, while Houston has almost always been a playoff side. This year, for once, things are different: United will go within one point of clinching the Eastern Conference title with a win today, while the Dynamo cannot afford a single loss in their remaining games if they want to get back into the playoffs again.
In other words, it's going to be a tense game in Space City as a full-strength United side faces the undermanned Dynamo.
Kickoff Time: 3:00pm Eastern
Venue: BBVA Compass Stadium (Houston, TX)
TV/Streaming: Continuing what has been an odd season for United broadcasts, this one is not on TV. Fans living somewhere outside the DMV can use MLS Live, while local fans will have to watch via dcunited.com/live.
Projected D.C. United starting XI: In my mind, it's time for United to hone in on a best eleven right now, and until Chris Rolfe returns this is how that group should shake out: Bill Hamid - moonlighting from USMNT duty - will be in goal behind a back four of Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, and Chris Korb. In the midfield, we'll see Nick DeLeon on the right, Chris Pontius on the left, and Perry Kitchen returns from suspension to partner Davy Arnaud in the engine room. Up top, Luis Silva and Fabian Espindola will look to get their sharpness as a pairing back after coming close to goals last week.
As for subs, Eddie Johnson coming on for Silva around the 70th minute is now basically a team custom. It seems likely that Party Boy will need to come off before full time as well, so look for David Estrada or Alex Caskey to replace him sometime around the hour mark. Last sub? I'd like to see Samuel Inkoom get more minutes to further settle in, but if we're winning it's more likely that Lewis Neal or Jared Jeffrey will step in for Espindola in an effort to clog central midfield up.
Match previews: For once, Ben and I have the same predicted starting eleven. We also have staff predictions and a trip behind enemy lines. Our scout was unable to find time to file a report, and as such has been punished with extra running. Our frenemies at Dynamo Theory have a preview as well.
Away from SB Nation, Steve Goff of the Washington Post says United has been free of distractions this week; Dave Johnson warns against complacency at CSN Washington; and MLSsoccer.com has their customary preview (this time with a video of Chris Schuler for...reasons).
Prediction: I'm sticking with the prediction I submitted in the above staff predictions link. This is the first time in forever that Houston is worse than United, and it's time for the Black-and-Red to step it up a level. I also demand the first of many revenges against the Dynamo for the Andre Hainault incident in 2012, and a DCU win would eliminate Houston from playoff contention. 2-1 to the good guys, Espindola with both goals.
What are you drinking? I have a couple beer options, but most likely I'll go with Fullers ESB.
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