D.C. United's fourth preseason game is tonight, and while the Austin Aztex are merely a USL team it should still be a good test. Austin is the home team, and lower-level teams always treat these games as big occasions. The Aztex may not have the sort of talent that Malmo did, but they will bring plenty of intensity to the field.
United, meanwhile, needs to get into the habit of scoring goals and winning games quickly. The CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals start for the Black-and-Red in under two weeks, and LD Alajuelense is going to have more games under their belt. United has just one goal in three preseason games, though to be fair they probably should have scored one or two against both Swedish foes down in Florida. This may only be a preseason game, but United only has two more games after this to get into top gear. There's no need to be nervous ye, but tonight's performance needs to be an improvement over what we saw in the Sunshine State.
Plus, this is the trophy on the line:
A+++++ RT@pauldalglish: What do you think of the trophy? #ATXProChallenge pic.twitter.com/4E1Q5UqKJz— Charles Boehm (@cboehm) February 13, 2015
Kickoff time: 9:00pm EST
Venue: Mike A. Myers Stadium (Austin, TX)
TV/Streaming: United will stream the game via dcunited.com/live.
D.C. United Projected Starting 11: Bill Hamid's welcome return to fitness means he should be getting the start tonight in goal. Ben Olsen has indicated that he wants to take a look at Markus Halsti in defense, so I think we'll see him and Bobby Boswell partnering as center backs. Sean Franklin and Taylor Kemp should be in their normal fullback roles.
Further forward, I expect United to continue on building a rapport among the front six. With Halsti seeing time in a defensive role, that means Nick DeLeon, Perry Kitchen, Davy Arnaud, and Chris Rolfe reuniting for the first time since 2014. Up top, Fabian Espindola and Chris Pontius will probably get the start, but will they cut the field into halves (as we saw against Jonkopings Sodra) or will Pontius continue to lead the line with Espindola dropping off of him? With the CCL less than two weeks away, I expect that this issue is going to be more or less settled by the time United leaves Austin.
Match previews: We took a look at Kitchen and new signing Michael Farfan just a couple of hours ago, while The Washington Post's Steve Goff wrote a formal article on Hamid's return as well as a blog post on tonight's match from Austin. For their part, United documented yesterday's training session and trip to dinner.
Prediction: United put together its best moments in the first half of all three preseason games, and I expect that to continue. Give me goals for Rolfe and Espindola before the intermission, an Aztex response after halftime, and a back-breaker from Jairo Arrieta as the game gets streched. 3-1 DCU.
What are you drinking?: If you read this right when it posts, I will probably be looking at cooler full of beer trying to choose something to drink for tonight's match. After weeks of ESBs and porters, I'm leaning towards an IPA or maybe a farmhouse ale. If things go awry, I'll probably pour myself some Courvoisier VSOP and go super fancy.
This is your place for pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.