Tonight in Texas D.C. United and FC Dallas will play what may be a critical game in the Supporters Shield race come October. United sits three points ahead of the trailing pack, but every club in MLS save the LA Galaxy has at least one game in hand. Dallas enters the night with two games in hand, and a win tonight would see them jump ahead of the Black-and-Red by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker.
So clearly this is a big game for both clubs, but for United it will also be a big challenge. The Hoops are on a three-game winning streak and haven't conceded in any of those matches. Despite their reputation as an attacking team, Oscar Pareja has gotten his club to defend successfully of late, making FCD a very difficult opponent for United. On the other hand, we haven't seen United's best in some time due to a sadistic schedule over the back half of June. With a two-week gap between games, DC may be a bit sharper than the last time we saw them even if they're missing some big names.
D.C. United Projected Starting 11: I suspect we're not in for any major surprises. Andrew Dykstra will deputize for the injured Bill Hamid in goal behind a back four of Chris Korb, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, and Taylor Kemp. In the midfield, look for Nick DeLeon, Perry Kitchen, Markus Halsti - or will it be Davy Arnaud? This is a big decision in central midfield for United - and Conor Doyle from right to left. Up front, Chris Rolfe will partner with Jairo Arrieta.
Off the bench, I'm guessing we'll see Miguel Aguilar on one wing or the other, while Facundo Coria will probably pop up somewhere in the attack. Depending on the circumstances, the Halsti/Arnaud non-starter could step in to clog up the midfield if United is hanging onto a result, or we could even see Kofi Opare sub on for Kemp - with Birnbaum going to left back - if United needs size in the closing minutes to fend off FCD's set piece menace.
Match previews: Staying here at B&RU, we have a lineup prediction that calls for Halsti to start, an Opposition 11 piece expecting few lineup changes for FCD, displayed a bit of pessimism in our staff predictions, and we also checked in with Big D Soccer to see how things look from their angle. Finally, our game preview emphasized the importance of Birnbaum tonight.
Speaking of our Dallas analogues, here's BDS's coverage of tonight's game. The Dallas Morning News details the 3+ game shutout streak the Hoops are on, while Steve Goff's piece for the Washington Post is focused on Dykstra as he starts out on his longest stretch as United's starting GK since joining the club.
What are you drinking: It's scorching hot in Texas and oppressively humid in the DMV, so the right answer here is a gin and tonic. Let's go with Tanqueray this time.
Prediction: I'm sticking with the 1-1 scoreline I submitted for our prediction post. United has made things difficult for Dallas under Ben Olsen, and I suspect the weather may actually be helpful tonight in that regard. I also have a growing hunch that Birnbaum is going to have a monster game, so I'm going with him as United's goalscorer.
This is your place for pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.