There is some slight dissension in the staff predictions this time, but all of us agree that D.C. United will do enough to at least clinch their spot in the playoffs tonight. Let us know what you think will happen in the comments below!
As we've all heard in the last week or so, D.C. United have yet to win a league game this year without both of Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud in the starting XI. Well, I think that changes Friday night against a reeling Sporting Kansas City side that is running on fumes and is paper-thin at the back. We probably won't see a repeat of the counterattacking clinic United put on in KC six weeks ago, but Ben Olsen will direct his team to play down their left to target young KC fullback Igor Juliao, forcing the Spork defense to rotate over and expose space in the middle. That's where United will find goals from Fabian Espindola and Luis Silva on either side of halftime. The guests will put one in, but it won't be enough to deny DC the full three points.
DC won in May lackadaisically playing a Sporks second team club and thrashed a far stronger Sporks team last month. One would have to figure with some much needed rest and facing this team who miss Collin & Rosell dearly (losers of 5 of their last 6, giving up 2 goals per, only beating Chivas during that time). This veteran DC club will know the stakes coming in, and come out winners 2-1 (Espindola, Silva).
Is it too much to hope for a LEWIS NEAL goal to seal our spot in the playoffs this year? My fantasy world prediction is that the Englishman does it again for us this time around. My real world prediction is that D.C. United get not just the needed draw, but the whole three points. Sporting Kansas City's defense right now is open for goals, and I expect both Espindola and Silva to get quality chances. One of them will put one away (my money's on Fabi) before halftime. Look for SKC to get at least a goal here, but in the end I'm going D.C., 3-1. I'll take EJ off the bench and a just-in-time-for-the-playoffs DeLeon for the other two.
SKC is going to be playing for a draw. They just need to stop the bleeding. They come to RFK with fear in their hearts. We'll be very offensive-minded. But we'll be missing our scrappy midfielder, Sir Perry Kitchen. As you recall, sometime last year, I insisted that DC United find someone who could fill in for him when needed, a Barry Bathroom or a Claude Foyer. But no. We've got Davy Arnaud. He's not a room in your house. He's a litigator. He'll litigate the heck out of every whistle. Without Kitchen, there will be less whistles. So what's a field attorney to do? Rise to the occasion, that's what. Davy Arnaud will be the Russian separatists in East Ukraine to Perry Kitchen's Putin. Perry Kitchen will not be there, but he'll be there. DC United will triumph, 2-0. Lots of bouncies in the stands, too.
Big game, national TV audience, reeling opponent. D.C. United is healthy, Sporting isn't. D.C. United is at home, Sporting isn't. All signs point to a Black-and-Red victory, but this is MLS and things are rarely what they seem. My heart says United wins, but my head says it's a struggle. Call it a 1-1 draw with EJ getting the tying goal late in the game.
There's a reason why Perry Kitchen is getting at least one MVP vote at this point, and unfortunately he is the player United is least able to replace in a game where central midfield will be of enormous importance. Kansas City has looked tired of late, but they had no midweek game and have been in town for a few days; combine that with their need to stop the bleeding, and I think we're going to see a far better Sporks side than New England faced last weekend. The good news is that United has KC's number this year, and Aurelien Collin probably won't play. Put it all together, and I see this game working out as a 1-1 draw. United is going to have a difficult game in central midfield, but I think the creativity of Fabian Espindola and Luis Silva is worth a goal in this one, and the defense will mostly hold firm against what will be an aggressive Sporks team.
SKC has been struggling lately at home, and as a result they're reeling in the Eastern Conference standings. At one point at the top of the conference, they are now a minor misstep away from 4th place. They really need the points to ensure that they're in the playoffs and have home field advantage in the first round.But, these United players know the score. They see what's in front of them. One point qualifies us for the playoffs for the 2nd time in 3 seasons. And, they know with 3 points, they inch ever closer to locking up the #1 seed in the East as well. They're not going to make us wait long. 2-1 DCU with the victory with goals by Fabi and Silva, Silva's goal being the one that gives us unwrap the playoff gift.