The games keep coming, and this week they're going to be a bit more of a challenge. D.C. United's last two outings saw them face teams outside the MLS playoff race, but both tonight - against the Chicago Fire - and this weekend involve home games against clubs occupying playoff spots in the East.
With both United and the Fire entering the game without attacking players they'd normally rely on - Chris Rolfe is suspended for the home team, while Chicago will be without English Premier League veteran Shaun Maloney - it's paramount for secondary attackers to step their game up. Soccer games can be turned on one moment of top-notch skill, but in MLS midweek games between teams on short rest those special moments are even more critical due to the drop in fluidity that comes with tired legs and second-choice players taking the field.
D.C. United Projected Starting 11: More squad rotation for everyone! I think we'll see Bill Hamid in goal behind Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, and Chris Korb. The midfield will probably see Nick DeLeon on the right, Chris Pontius on the left, and a central duo of Perry Kitchen and Markus Halsti. Up top, look for Conor Doyle and Jairo Arrieta.
Off the bench, I expect to see Miguel Aguilar come on for at least half an hour given that DeLeon was only recently out with a hamstring issue. It sounds like Fabian Espindola might be able to contribute 20 minutes as well. The last sub seems likely to be Facundo Coria, though someone like Luke Mishu could also make an appearance to give one of the fullbacks a break.
Match previews: It's been pretty busy around these parts lately with this whole stadium flirtation thing, but we've still put together some pieces for your edification. We took a stab at predicting United's lineup as well as Chicago's likely starters. Our staff predictions are mostly positive, and we also checked in with Hot Time in Old Town to see how things are going in the Windy City. Speaking of HTIOT, here's their preview.
What are you drinking: On the way, I'm getting an espresso because I very stupidly fell asleep on the couch only to wake up about 4 hours or so later. Once at RFK, I'm going to buy a beer of some kind, but I have no idea about specifics. Did I mention I need a jolt?
Prediction: The possibility of Espindola's return has boosted my hopes about the performance we'll see tonight, but I still can't shake the sense that we're in for a pretty scrappy game. 1-1 sounds about right, unfortunately, but if Espindola is fit to start I'd go 2-1 United.
This is your place for pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.