Last night's loss by KC last night opened the door for D.C. United to take a six-point lead atop the Eastern Conference with a win today at home against the Philadelphia Union. In fact, with the right set of results - TFC and Columbus both dropping points - United may well clinch a playoff spot before even our most responsible readers go to bed tonight.
For the Union, meanwhile, it's a far more nerve-wracking situation. They'll also be rooting against Toronto, as a win for the Reds would see Philly in 7th place when this one kicks off. A road victory, however, would see them jump back above the red line and into a 5th place (at least for a few hours, depending on that Crew result). Philly also needs a result in what has become one of MLS's tougher venues to prove to themselves that they belong at the grown-ups table.
Kickoff Time: 3:00pm Eastern.
Venue: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium
TV/Streaming: NBC Sports Network will carry the game nationally, so if you don't get that you're kind of screwed. El Zol 107.9 will also have the game on the radio in Spanish.
Projected DC United starting XI: It's weird not to have a mid-week game to plan for. There's no reason to expect anything but Ben Olsen's best fully-fit eleven. That means Bill Hamid in goal behind a back four of Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, and Taylor Kemp. The midfield is likely going to be Nick DeLeon, Perry Kitchen, Davy Arnaud, and Chris Pontius. Luis Silva and Fabian Espindola will start up front in the customary 442 with no out-and-out striker.
As for subs, I think we can be certain that Pontius can't go 90 yet (particularly after playing 53 minutes against Tauro Wednesday night), so look for Samuel Inkoom to come on for him (with DeLeon shifting to the left side). Silva usually gets subbed out before the 75th minute, so that'll be Eddie Johnson's chance to come on. Finally, I think Olsen would like to get Chris Korb minutes in a more tense environment than CCL play, so if the game lets it happen I think we'll see him come in for Kemp. If we're in need of a goal, I'd like to file a request for Collin Martin to step in for Arnaud and a shift to the diamond we saw mid-week.
Match previews: Ben's lineup prediction differs from mine, but I can't say I'd mind seeing the team he expects. Elsewhere, Adam reminded us all that the first Geiger show was a United-Union match at RFK; I did a customarily long-winded scouting report; and our staff predictions indicate confidence - but not sky-high confidence, thanks Ryan, gawl! - in a win. Elsewhere, MLSsoccer's preview notes that Espindola and Kitchen are both suspended if they pick up a yellow today, while the team site features Molly Bruh interviewing assistant coach Amos Magee (who, to his credit, is looking pretty grizzled these days).
What are you drinking? I am writing this the night before the game, but currently I'm leaning towards some kind of Pale Ale (maybe Birdhouse Ale from The Brewer's Art?). As always, I'll see what grabs my attention in the cooler at the local liquor store.
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