The toughest portion of D.C. United's 2015 schedule starts tonight as the Columbus Crew SC are in town for a match that may end up determining first place in the East. Gregg Berhalter's side features MLS's joint-leading goalscorer in Kei Kamara, as well as the highest-scoring attack overall. The Crew are known for their possession-obsessed approach, which makes this something of a clash of styles.
For United, it's a chance to start a difficult month off on the right foot against a challenging opponent, as well as an opportunity to open up a six-point lead on Columbus despite having to face six games without Fabian Espindola. Both teams are going to want to build off of big wins: United's 2-1 victory over league-leading Vancouver was impressive due to the opposition, while Columbus earned plaudits for the comprehensive nature of their 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Union.
D.C. United Projected Starting 11: While I would prefer that the 4132 be given another game, I can't sit here and tell you that it will be repeated given that every other game this season has involved the 442. That means Bill Hamid - back from injury - will start in goal, behind a back four of Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Kofi Opare, and the fit-again Taylor Kemp. In the midfield, I think Michael Farfan will maintain a starting job but has to shuttle to the right, while Perry Kitchen will be paired with the returning Davy Arnaud centrally. On the left, I think we end up seeing Chris Rolfe (despite Rolfe's fine showing as a forward last week). Rolfe will be moving back because Luis Silva seems likely to make his first start of the season alongside Fabian Espindola.
Off the bench, you can be assured that Nick DeLeon and Chris Pontius will sub on at some point. After that, it's less clear. Conor Doyle is probably a safe bet once again, though we could also see Chris Korb sub on for Kemp if United is going defensive towards the end of the game.
Match previews: Yesterday at training, we talked to Ben Olsen as well as Kitchen on how this game kicks off a congested stretch over the next two months. We also exchanged questions with Massive Report. We also looked at the likely starters for both teams, as well as going in depth with a scouting report. Most recently, we provided a brief preview with the TV info for fans that can't make it into the District tonight. Over at The Washington Post, Steve Goff points out that a lot of players are coming back to full fitness just as the Black-and-Red start a three-game homestand.
In addition, read Jason's brief preview of the match before it kicks off at 7.
What are you drinking: I will be coming to Lot 8 from a different event, so I probably won't have time to pick up a beer. That means it's on my normal tailgating crew to come through for me. Most likely, this means one decent beer and one can of National Bohemian.
This is your place for pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.