Eighty-three days ago, D.C. United's 2014 season ended in particularly galling fashion. A bigger victory was won in the District's corridors of power in the meantime, but I imagine most of us are soccer fans for something other than complicated, decades-long stadium battles. Eighty-three days is a long time to wait for something awesome, but today we wait no more. United takes on Orlando City SC in the first game of the 2015 preseason this evening, and we're pumped up.
Kickoff Time: 7:00pm Eastern
Venue: IMG Academy training fields (Bradenton, FL)
TV/Streaming: No TV for preseason games, unfortunately. United will be streaming the game on dcunited.com/live, though, so prepare your complaints about the video quality or announcer now! Also, you know, take a second to remember that it wasn't that long ago that 240p video would have seemed like manna from heaven.
Projected D.C. United starting XI: This actually took me a minute to figure out given the list of regulars who are not at 100% (Bill Hamid, Andrew Dykstra, Luis Silva, and Eddie Johnson among them) or are away with the USMNT (Steve Birnbaum and Perry Kitchen). Throw in the fact that Markus Halsti only just got to Florida, and we're probably going to see a lot of some guys further down the depth chart. It's also the first preseason game, so the chances of me getting this right are about the same as winning the Powerball jackpot (note: If I do, we're all flying to Costa Rica next month).
My stab in the dark is that we see a 442 featuring trialist Diego Restrepo in goal behind a back four of Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Kofi Opare, and Taylor Kemp. In the midfield, look for Nick DeLeon and Chris Rolfe to start on the flanks while Davy Arnaud is partnered by Jared Jeffrey (a player who is under more pressure than most to look good over the next month). Up top, I'm guessing get a look at a Fabian Espindola-Chris Pontius pairing. Of all the areas Ben Olsen will be trying to find a good fit at, the forward duo is probably at the top of the list given the injuries and suspensions involved.
Match previews: Our newest frenemies The Mane Land are looking at the game from the OCSC perspective, and also have heard rumors that the game will be broken into 30-minute periods instead of the standard 45 minute halves. United, however, says the game will be a normal 90 minute affair with only one break in the middle. O-Town's 11, meanwhile, takes a stab at the Orlando starting lineup. On United's side of things, Steve Goff touched on tonight's game (but mostly focused on his chat with Dave Kasper) and the club site looked at what went on at training yesterday.
Finally, in what is not exactly a preview, Pablo Maurer notes that Kaka is probably not going to play tonight:
Kaka missing tonight's preseason match against #DCU w/"Visa issues." Source tells me he maxed it out at the Disney Store.— Pablo Maurer (@MLSist) January 30, 2015
Prediction: United is going to be short some pretty important pieces, but without Kaka the Lions look toothless from where I sit. With veterans like Boswell, Franklin, and Arnaud in the fold, I'm thinking this should end in a win for the Black-and-Red. Give me 2-0, with goals from Espindola and Jairo Arrieta (who hopefully wants to remind Orlando of what they lost out on in trading him all year long).
What are you drinking? New season, new beer: I've got a six pack of Heavy Seas Brewing's Deep Six waiting for me at home.
This is the place to be for pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion as United gets 2015 underway.