This is what intercontinental play is all about: Waterhouse FC knows that failing to win tonight's CONCACAF Champions League match will leave them with little chance of advancing, while D.C. United is fully aware that a loss would make advancement a very difficult task. In fact, a two-goal Waterhouse win would clinch the group for the Jamaicans via the second tiebreaker (head-to-head goal difference, which follows head-to-head results).
In other words, this game is kinda-sorta the group championship game. Even a draw would hand United a decisive advantage; just one win over a pretty hapless-looking Tauro FC in the final two group games would ensure a spot in the quarterfinals this coming spring. However, if United wants a good chance to go further than that, sweeping the group is probably required.
Kickoff Time: 8:00pm Eastern.
Venue: National Arena (a.k.a. Independence Park, a.k.a. The Office), Kingston, Jamaica
TV/Streaming: On TV: Fox Soccer Plus if you're among the tiny number of people that have that. FoxSoccer2Go is your streaming option. Please do not link illegal streams anywhere on Black and Red United, including the comments here.
Projected DC United starting XI: Since Fabian Espindola is suspended for this weekend's game against the Chicago Fire thanks to the incompetence of a referee and an entire Disciplinary Committee, we should expect him to get the start tonight alongside David Estrada. Underneath that pairing, I think we'll see two regular starters - Nick DeLeon on the right and Perry Kitchen in defensive midfield - and two guys who regularly make the gameday 18 in Lewis Neal (partnering Kitchen centrally) and Alex Caskey (on the left).
At the back, I think United will use a pretty familiar back four. Sean Franklin and Taylor Kemp will take up their normal outside back roles, while Bobby Boswell will be partnered by Kofi Opare. Joe Willis will probably get the start in goal.
As for subs, look for newcomer Samuel Inkoom to make his debut - perhaps at left back, where Kemp has played nearly every second since Chris Korb's injury? - and we'll probably also see Kyle Porter come on at some point. The last sub will be down to how the game sets up: Luis Silva should get in if United needs a goal, but if it's Waterhouse pursuing a winner we'll likely see Jared Jeffrey. If the game sets up without pressure late, that third sub will probably be Chris Pontius.
Match previews: Ben's lineup prediction is even more aggressive than mine. As a staff, we're more or less predicting a win (even if I have changed my mind on the scorers, as you'll see below). We also got some in-depth answers from @CaribbeanFtbl on the Waterhouse side of things in Behind Enemy Lines. MLSsoccer wrote a neutral preview, while Steve Goff's write-up points out that Eddie Johnson's status is unknown at this point. From Kingston, the awesomely-named Jamaica Gleaner has some notes from the pre-match press conference.
Prediction: This will likely be the decisive game in Group 4, so it should be tense. Waterhouse's heavy use of long balls and the occasional brilliant shots from long range isn't really a recipe for success against this United side. With Espindola on from the start, I think the Black-and-Red should create enough chances to bag some goals. Give me 2-1 DCU, with Espindola and DeLeon scoring in the first half.
What are you drinking? Evolution Craft Brewing Co.'s Lot 3 IPA, most likely. Outside chance of bourbon.
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