The 2015 Major League Soccer season opens today for both D.C. United and the Montreal Impact in the District. MLS's two CONCACAF Champions League knockout stage participants are coming off of midweek games, but the results were quite different: United beat Alajuelense 2-1, which wasn't enough to overhaul their first-leg deficit on aggregate. Montreal, on the other hand, eliminated Mexican power Pachuca without ever actually winning a game thanks to the away goals tiebreaker. Soccer's a weird game.
The Impact were a mess in 2014, but they've upgraded their entire back four as well as added major defensive midfield depth. They should be a better side this season, but that's not to say that many impartial observers expect them to spring a trap on United. Los capitalinos are the stronger team on paper, and they'll be looking to make that count despite having played Wednesday. It's vital for United to push past the frustration of CCL elimination and to show that they can still be a good team without Fabian Espindola, who begins his six-game MLS suspension today.
If you're worried about whether the game can go on after Thursday's snowstorm and Friday's freezing temperatures, don't fret:
Kickoff time: 3:00pm EST
Venue: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (Washington, DC)
TV/Streaming: CSN Washington will have the game locally if you can't get to the stadium, while MLS Live and MLS Direct Kick are your out-of-market options. If you're listening to the radio, The Fan 106.7 FM will have the English broadcast, while El Zol 107.9 FM will carry Spanish-language coverage.
D.C. United Projected Starting 11: There will be some kind of rotation for United after Wednesday's game, but I don't expect Ben Olsen to trot out a brand new eleven. Defensively, I only see one change: Taylor Kemp should return at left back for Chris Korb, where he'll join Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, and Steve Birnbaum in front of Bill Hamid. In the midfield, I think we'll see Nick DeLeon and Chris Rolfe on the wings, while Michael Farfan should get his first start in United's colors alongside (or perhaps a few yards ahead of?) Perry Kitchen. Up top, Jairo Arrieta seems a certain starter, but I wonder about whether Chris Pontius gets a nod or if Conor Doyle comes in due to a combination of fresher legs, Party Boy's early-season form, and the fact that Doyle and Arrieta seemed to understand each other in preseason.
As for substitutions, I'm pretty sure we'll see Miguel Aguilar no matter what happens, whether it's on the right for DeLeon or on the left (either for Rolfe or to allow Rolfe to move up front to replace Pontius/Doyle). If the game is going well, Davy Arnaud will come in at some point in the midfield, and whichever of Pontius or Doyle doesn't start will likely come in down the stretch.
Match previews: Around these parts, we've been busy. I took a look at Montreal's potential starting lineup, while Ben covered who he thinks will start for the home side. Our staff predictions, meanwhile, were one vote away from being unanimous. Finally, our preview from a couple hours ago talked up the importance of Rolfe in Fabian Espindola's absence.
Over at The Washington Post, Steve Goff finds United trying to maintain the "prove 'em wrong" mentality that worked so well in 2014. At the team site, Craig Stouffer talked to Espindola and Rolfe about recovering from the CCL elimination and Espindola's suspension. From the Impact's perspective, our friends at Mount Royal Soccer are predicting that four Montreal starters from Tuesday will rotate out for today's match.
What are you drinking?: It's going to be one of the nicest days in weeks today, but that still only means a high of around 40-45 degrees. As my normal tailgating crew is big on beer, I might bring some coffee. Alcohol is fun at soccer games, but caffeine and warmth can be helpful too. Or maybe I ditch the whole plan and buy a six pack?
This is your place for pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.