Never mind that D.C. United is the victim of MLS's just-short-of-abusive scheduling and dealing with a cross-country flight, or that the Seattle Sounders are missing nearly half their starting team for tonight's game. Never mind the recent, indifferent form the Black-and-Red have shown, or the outright bad run Seattle is on. Tonight, two Supporters Shield contenders will play a potentially crucial game, and at the end of the season you don't get bonus points for dealing with tough circumstances. You either win games and get yourself some hardware or you don't.
That's the mindset both of these teams need to embrace tonight, because anything less could see both teams hunting for excuses. These teams have won enough games that they've learned the value of mentality, and on tough nights that's such a vital thing in MLS. For United, that's going to mean taking advantage of the return of a strong lineup - "strong" in 2015 means 7-8 starters for United, but whatever - and forcing a Seattle team filled out by second-choice players to play up to the level that has kept DCU at the top of the standings.
D.C. United Projected Starting 11: The super-duper rotation has its consequences, but on the plus side it means that United won't be resting any starters due to tired legs. Unfortunately, that doesn't help when the injury report includes several first-choice players. The result should be a team that features Andrew Dykstra in goal; a back four of Chris Korb, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, and Taylor Kemp; a midfield quartet featuring Nick DeLeon, Perry Kitchen, Davy Arnaud, and Chris Rolfe; and a front line of Luis Silva and Fabian Espindola.
Off the bench, look for Silva to come out after 60-70 minutes for either Jairo Arrieta or Miguel Aguilar (in the latter case, Rolfe will move forward). If things are going well, I'd bank on Markus Halsti entering in the late stages to lock things down; if not, Arrieta or Aguilar - whoever didn't enter earlier - will replace Rolfe. Finally, Conor Doyle has been truly earning his minutes in the last 4-5 weeks, and I suspect we'll see him get into this game either on the wing or up top no matter what the score is. Unless maybe Michael Farfan's place on the injury report is a trick?
Match previews: Here at B&RU, we've put together a few articles that are hopefully worth your time: We took a stab at the Black-and-Red's lineup as well as the team the Sounders will field, while our staff predictions more or less expect a draw. We asked Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart some questions about SSFC, and our preview underlined the importance of Espindola tonight.
Going back to S@H for a second, they put together this really cool infographic comparing the sides. Steve Goff's piece for the Washington Post finds that United is wary of Seattle regardless of who they have missing.
What are you drinking: Given the late hour, it's important to balance the desire to have an adult beverage with the need for caffeine. That's why Van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka is such a great thing! It gives your body a stimulant and a depressant and lets them duke it out for supremacy among your innards. Can you tell that the recent schedule is driving me mad?
Prediction: I expect a very scrappy first half in which both teams play with energy, but not necessarily a lot of creativity. I think Espindola and Rolfe will combine to give United a lead, but the long trip out and a desperate Seattle side will combine to see the Sounders equalize. Both teams will survive a late threat from the other, and in the end we'll see a 1-1 draw.
This is your place for pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.