Tonight's home game against Real Salt Lake is another opportunity for D.C. United to maintain their edge at the top of the Eastern Conference. After all, when you're in the Supporters Shield race and the team visiting your home stadium is below the red line, you should be expecting to win. Of course, RSL is in the Western Conference, where 32 points is the bare minimum to get into the postseason. By comparison, the East's 2nd place team (Columbus) would be 7th in the West. As such, this isn't as straightforward as a home game against Philly should have been.
RSL is also in pretty good form of late, with just one loss in their last five league games (while also advancing to the US Open Cup semifinals as well). They've gotten it done without Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman, too, which points to a club that is getting its act together for a strong push over the last third of the season.
Beckerman will be back tonight, but the big story in this one is Alvaro Saborio's first game against the club he spent over 5 years playing for. RSL's defensive injuries point to a very good opportunity for United's ex-RSL front line duo to make some noise against their former employer.
D.C. United Projected Starting 11: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Andrew Dykstra in goal, Chris Korb at right back, Bobby Boswell and Steve Birnbaum in central defense, Taylor Kemp at left back, Nick DeLeon at right midfield, Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud in the engine room, Chris Rolfe at left midfield, and a forward pairing of Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio.
I doubt we'll see too many surprising subs, either. Miguel Aguilar will probably come in for Rolfe at some point, and Jairo Arrieta will replace a forward as well. Last sub? Seems like we'll see Conor Doyle either for the remaining starting forward or for DeLeon.
Match previews: Let's start with our stuff, because we are pushy. We went to the distant past for some fun United-RSL memories on Throwback Thursday, predict an unchanged United lineup, checked in with our friends at RSL Soapbox to find out what's going on with RSL these days, took a look at the probable RSL lineup, and predicted a win for United en masse. Oh, and just a couple of hours ago, we talked up the opportunity Saborio has to put one over on his old club in our preview of the game.
Going back to RSL Soapbox for a second, they're happy to have Kyle Beckerman back from USMNT duty despite some good results in his absence. Over at the Washington Post, Steve Goff found Saborio less interested in scoring on his old team and more focused on just scoring goals, period. The Deseret News, meanwhile, notes that RSL has never won at RFK.
What are you drinking: I don't actually have my beer yet, so it might come down to what my tailgating crew has on hand. There's probably some National Bohemian in there, but beyond that I can't be sure. So, let's just assume I have a can of Boh.
Prediction: I like United's chances in this one. RSL has been bad on the road, and they'll be going way down the depth chart for central defenders. Nick Rimando seems less than likely to play. Those are circumstances United has to take advantage, and I think they will. Espindola scores twice - one on either side of halftime - and United makes it stand up. 2-0 DCU.
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