It's something of a tradition for D.C. United to end up in a position to win preseason trophies. Even in bad years - 2010, for example - United tends to win preseason tournaments most of the time. This year's team is thankfully a far stronger group than the 2010 Carolina Challenge Cup winner, however, and all that stands between hoisting United's first-ever trophy that is also a stuffed and mounted armadillo is FC Dallas. The Texans beat Columbus in the early game while United dispatched with the Austin Aztex later on Friday.
On one hand, United already has a game scheduled in Dallas against the Hoops in a few days. It would have been nice to play a Crew side that plays a very different style of soccer. On the other hand, Oscar Pareja's club features one of the more fearsome attacks in MLS and can attack with speed, possession, or just rely on game-breakers like Fabian Castillo and Mauro Diaz to do it all themselves. They're going to be a real test for United's ability to keep clean sheets, which will be vital if the CONCACAF Champions League is going to be more than a two-game expansion of the schedule.
Kickoff time: 4:15pm EST
Venue: Mike A. Myers Stadium (Austin, TX)
TV/Streaming: United will stream the game via dcunited.com/live. No TV coverage (unless you're in Texas and have access to TWC SportsChannel there). It's still preseason, after all.
D.C. United Projected Starting 11: Against the Austin Aztex, I called for a regular and/or expected starters to play from the opening whistle, only for the supposed B team to score the goals early. This time around, I'm going to repeat the same request and look smart because the plan was apparently to send out a stronger team in the second game due to it inevitably being against a stronger opponent thanks to the tournament structure. That means Bill Hamid in goal, a back four of Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Markus Halsti, and Taylor Kemp, a midfield featuring Nick DeLeon, Perry Kitchen, Davy Arnaud, and Chris Rolfe, and a forward pairing of Fabian Espindola and Chris Pontius.
As an aside, I'd note that I'm starting to expect Halsti to end up at center back if Steve Birnbaum isn't fit for February 26th. It's not so much that I think he belongs there as much as it is a choice between starting him there and having Arnaud in the midfield, or playing Halsti with Kitchen and starting Kofi Opare. I'm big on Opare, but if soccer is still about getting your players on the field, I'd have to choose the lineup that has Arnaud. I'm guessing we'll learn more today about Halsti's ability in that role.
Match previews: There isn't much out there in the way of previews. The Sacramento Bee is covering all things Miguel Aguilar, which is pretty cool. The University of Texas has some info up on the game as well. Tickets are $30 and up! For preseason soccer! I'd say that things really are bigger in Texas, but then again I know ticket prices at RFK so...
Prediction: Dallas scored three goals in 15 minutes against the Crew on Friday, but Columbus had the better of the second half even before Pareja started removing his stronger group. FCD's 4231 should provide a stern defensive test whether or not Tesho Akindele plays (he sat the bench Friday for whatever reason).
On the other hand, they're still a team that seems likely to start Atiba Harris as a right back, so if United's defending is strong this should be a win. 2-1, with Espindola scoring both goals.
What are you drinking?: It is cold enough that the only descriptors that I can think of are obscenities. As such, I plan on brewing up some coffee for this game. I have some Peet's Coffee & Tea Reserve Kenyan Kiburi beans that are surprisingly good.
This is your place for pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.