D.C. United travels to New York City (New York City?!) to take on NYCFC for the first time at Yankee Stadium. We are pretty confident about their chances, but let us know what you think will happen in the comments!
I'm mildly conflicted as to this game. On one hand, D.C. will not only be without Fabian Espindola for it, but also there is the matter of balancing rosters for next week's CONCACAF Champions League match. And unlike last year, D.C. comes into it earlier, so the desire to get at least a point early against Arabe Unido should be on Ben Olsen's mind. So there may be a patchwork roster of sorts Thursday night. On the other hand, NYCFC has a short turnaround as well, with two midfielders whose combined age is an awesome Wonderlic score. Combine that with the fact that D.C. has won 9 of 11 games against expansion teams in debut matches, and I think D.C. squeaks it out 2-1, with goals from Chris Rolfe and Alvaro Saborio, while Thomas McNamara (who else?) getting one for Citeh lite.
Not having Espindola is a problem. We should have a field day with NYCFC's defense. But Fabi is a critical component in our offensive circuitry. I picture Saborio hanging out there by himself like Eddie Johnson. And what will our midfield do with Lampard and Pirlo? I wonder if we can sufficiently confuse them with an avalanche of inaccurate passes and deep-in-our-own-third turnovers that they will think the goal is in the other direction. It's worth a shot. Maybe Hamid can stop them. I'm going for a 2-2 tie, and promptly making an appointment in the B&RU spanking room for being so curmudgeonly pessimistic and snarky that I'm annoying even myself. Prove me wrong, United (DC, not Atlanta).
The last 3 weeks have gone as follows: allow 2 goals in first 4 minutes of the game and win 3-2; allow 2 goals in the first 20 minutes and win 6-4; and then become first team ever to win a game only taking 1 shot. So, heading to the first ever game at the House that Steinbrenner Built sans Espindola, I really have no idea what's going to happen. I only know this: in my gut, we're going to win. NYCFC hasn't quite figured out how to play with their eleventy billion dollar lineup, and I think the Black & Red can expose their weakness in defense. Rolfe gets one, Saborio gets one, Kitchen gets one, and Hamid dances on his head once again for a 3-0 victory to DCU.
NYCFC has a badly constructed roster with too many old players who don't run and too many defenders who can't defend. On the other hand United's attack was a mess without Espindola in Montreal, where the Impact punished United for not having a Plan B for playing out of the back when Perry Kitchen is pressured at all times. However, I think United will have more time to work on that backup plan because NYCFC's midfield simply doesn't have the legs to do what Montreal did.
Expect a lot of hectic midfield play in the early going before NYCFC has some sort of defensive disaster, handing Alvaro Saborio a goal around the half-hour mark. The hectic play will continue, but United will get the crucial second goal via Chris Rolfe. David Villa will draw one back with the help of Thomas McNamara - naturally, because why let me ever get over it - but United will hold firm from there to win 2-1. The game will be capped off with Conor Doyle putting Lampard on the ground with some sort of elaborate dribbling maneuver that he will never repeat.
This feels like a set piece special to me. Without Fabi to drive the attack forward, United creates little of danger from open play, but that friendly light blue defense will gift the visitors enough chances from free kicks and corners that I think Los Capitalinos pull off the win. Chris Rolfe scores direct from a free kick, Steve Birnbaum turns in a corner, and Thomas McNamara sets up David Villa. 2-1 United.
I'm not going to pretend like I have any idea what will happen in this game. DCU haven't exactly been consistent lately, and without Espindola things seem even more up in the air. But a Thursday night trip to NYCFC has the feel of a win to me--the kind of weird, confusing game we get in MLS where we all sort of wonder what we're watching and why. I'll say Hamid doesn't get the clean sheet in this one, but the Black-and-Red grab all three points thanks to Saborio and Rolfe goals in a 2-1 victory.
This is probably not going to be a pretty game. NYC and Toronto proved that attacking soccer can be played at Yankee Stadium, but that's because neither of those teams know much about defending. D.C. United's defense is a different matter. 1-0 was good enough away to Montreal, and it will be good enough again on Thursday. United wins, and Chris Rolfe scores.
D.C. United broke their road hex, but with a fairly uninspiring victory against the Montreal Impact. They'll have to be better than that against David Villa and Tommy McNamara, so let us all hope that Frank Lampard is in the lineup to make it even slower, less defensively stout, and more hilarious. Give me a 2-1 D.C. United victory, because why not! With goals by Steve Birnbaum, Chris Rolfe, and Tommy McNamara.