There's no need to build this one up. MLS's oldest rivalry has never seen D.C. United eliminated from the playoffs by the New York Red Bulls or any of the other names that club has gone by over the years. However, United has also never faced the Metros needing to win by at least two goals (or three if NYRB manages to score once themselves) before. It's been a wonderful season for United, and today will require their very best performance.
It will also require our best performance as fans. If you have a ticket, be ready to bring your A game for however long this one takes.
Kickoff Time: 2:30pm Eastern (Note: Due to the broadcasting window on NBC, the normal 20 minute NBC pregame show will not take place. If you're still in Lot 8 at 2:30, you're going to miss the kickoff)
Venue: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (Washington, DC)
TV/Streaming: Today's game will be on NBC. Not NBCSN or NBC Double Secret, but real actual NBC. It'll also be on Univision Deportes in Spanish, and if you want to find it streaming online you can go to NBC Sports LiveExtra or use the Univision Deportes app. English-language radio will be on 106.7 The Fan.
Projected D.C. United starting XI: One change from last week, as Sean Franklin is fully fit again. He'll be at right back, with Bobby Boswell and Steve Birnbaum in the middle and Chris Korb getting the call at left back. In the midfield, we'll see Nick DeLeon on the right, Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud in the middle, and Chris Pontius on the left. Fabian Espindola and Eddie Johnson will once again start up top.
As for subs, you can pretty much guarantee that Chris Rolfe will come in regardless of the score, and it'll be for Pontius on the left side (unless things are very desperate, in which case we could see him replace Korb in a move to some kind of 352 or 343). Luis Silva is going to be a tempting sub, but let's be honest: If he plays, this thing either went to OT or we're badly in need of a goal. Given the nature of his injury, he's probably only got 20-25 minutes in his legs at the most.
Depending on how the game is going, Ben Olsen may have to consider two lesser-used players to chase this thing. Collin Martin getting a central role would be a roll of the dice, but him playing as a #10 would cause confusion in the NYRB ranks. The other sub I'd keep in mind would be Samuel Inkoom coming in for Arnaud, with DeLeon moving into the middle. Inkoom's positioning has been risky so far, but he's been an assist machine and may be the best crosser on the entire roster. With EJ in the lineup, that's an important weapon to have. Inkoom is on the edges of the normal gameday roster, but this isn't a normal game. I think United needs to gamble on additional attackers rather than carrying, say, Jared Jeffrey for this one.
Now, should United steamroll the Metros in the first half and actually have an aggregate lead to protect? Lewis Neal for Espindola makes a lot of sense.
Match previews: Ben sees Taylor Kemp starting over Korb in his lineup prediction, while our staff predictions for the final score almost all see a United win (but not necessarily by enough to advance). Adam served up a reminder that NYRB's last visit to RFK was a 2-0 win for the good guys, which would be enough to send this one into overtime. Donald - fittingly for an experienced SG capo - wrote a piece that should have you kicking down doors on your way to RFK. Finally, this morning I posted some points on what United has to do to win.
Elsewhere, Matt Doyle posted a good piece on how last week was an odd game for United in more than one way at MLSsoccer.com. The league site also has their customary preview piece. At the Washington Post, Steve Goff focused on notable comebacks from other teams in this situation.
Prediction: I rarely change my thoughts from our prediction piece, and I don't feel like doing so now. Kitchen and EJ score, and this one goes to overtime. The extra period will be nerve-wracking as hell, but ultimately no goals are scored and we go to PKs. There, both goalkeepers produce saves - that's plural - but United is the one team that doesn't miss the frame. All those Metros fans came down here with their hopes up, and they'll all have to drive home sad. Like always. You'd think after all these years they'd learn.
What are you drinking? Tailgating in the morning on a day when the temperatures won't top 55 requires coffee. However, I'll probably have some before arriving at Lot 8 (maybe a stop at Peregrine in Eastern Market if you're up for stalking). As for more traditional Lot 8 beverages, I'll be bringing a bottle of my favorite beer (Huyghe's Delirium Nocturnum) with me as well as some water so that I can actually recall the game.
This is the place to be for pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion as United tries to make sure the world remains a just and moral place by ruining yet another Metro season.