After a crushing disappointment against Columbus Crew SC, D.C. United must regroup and take on the New England Revolution in the knockout round of the MLS Cup Playoffs. The two previous games found D.C. United finding some cohesion with a one of the first stable lineups they had all season; the loss to Columbus has thrown all of that back in the air. With 90 minutes to decide with United gets to the next round, who will Ben Olsen start?
Unlike previous seasons, Olsen has not really tried any formation but the 4-4-2 this season, except early in the season against Vancouver. So, for better or for worse, it is likely that the 4-4-2 is what we will see on Wednesday night.
When filing out my lineup card, there were only six players who I immediately wrote down: Bill Hamid, Perry Kitchen, Fabian Espindola, and Chris Rolfe. Bobby Boswell and Sean Franklin will undoubtedly play, but hopefully their performances on Sunday were an aberration and not a sign of the beginning of a decline.
The first question is at center back: after the horrid performance, you would think something would have to change. However, Steve Birnbaum is the only available option to come in, which limits the changes that can be made. The only backup fullback available is Luke Mishu, and he won't play in front of Sean Franklin or Taylor Kemp. Birnbaum has occasionally played fullback, but he is probably going to be playing in place of Kofi Opare.
United has struggled without Davy Arnaud to pair with Perry Kitchen: Halsti and Kitchen are very similar players, and sometimes they run all over each other's space. With Michael Farfan not making the bench on Sunday, he seems to be unlikely to play on Wednesday; same goes for Davy Arnaud, who still hasn't come back from his concussion. That means that Halsti is likely to start next to Kitchen by default, and hopefully they can figure out their positioning.
The last variable is Fabian Espindola's partner at forward and how that affects where Chris Rolfe will play. I think that Alvaro Saborio will start, which pushes Chris Rolfe back to left midfield, Nick DeLeon back to right midfield, and Chris Pontius to the bench. This would leave the bench to be Andrew Dykstra, Kofi Opare, Chris Pontius, Conor Doyle, Miguel Aguilar, Jairo Arrieta, and Michael Farfan.
What do you want to see tomorrow night?