Yankee Stadium is the venue for D.C. United's first-ever match against New York City FC. It's a contrast in just about every way you look at it: The Black-and-Red are an MLS original at the top of the standings despite a very stingy policy in the transfer market; NYCFC is a brand new club that close to the bottom of the table despite spending heavily. Jason Kreis wants his team to win via possession, while Ben Olsen's side is far more pragmatic.
United's task is more difficult than the standings would make it seem. NYCFC may be a struggling team, but anyone with David Villa and Andrea Pirlo in their lineup is a danger to score every time they have the ball. United's normal road approach requires defending deep, but doing so will allow Pirlo the space he needs to be effective. We also have to be honest and note that United hasn't actually played well at both ends of the field in weeks. The results are still there, but the Black-and-Red are playing with fire based on recent form. A more balanced approach is needed to keep the points rolling in.
D.C. United Projected Starting 11: Despite last week's struggles and a CCL game up next, I expect few changes from Ben Olsen. Bill Hamid will carry on in goal behind a back four of Chris Korb, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, and Taylor Kemp (Sean Franklin will get to build his fitness back up against Arabe Unido next week). In the midfield, I'm guessing that Nick DeLeon - whose status was up in the air on Tuesday - to be held out of the starting lineup. I'm hopeful that this is where Michael Farfan - who has 2-3 weeks of training at 100% under his belt - makes his return, but if not I suspect we could see Miguel Aguilar instead. Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud will once again pair up in central midfield, and I think Conor Doyle will start opposite Farfan/Aguilar/DeLeon. It could be that Doyle ends up on the right and Farfan or Aguilar is on the left; I suspect we'll see some position-swapping during the game no matter what.
Farfan or Aguilar starting will free up Chris Rolfe to move to forward, where his play in between the lines is sorely needed with Fabian Espindola injured. Alvaro Saborio will retain his spot as United's target man.
Off the bench, look for Jairo Arrieta to replace one of the strikers with about 20 minutes to go, and look for a change on the flank - one from Farfan, Aguilar, and DeLeon replacing one from Farfan, Aguilar, or DeLeon - at the hour mark. Olsen will also probably look to give Chris Pontius another 10-15 minutes to build his fitness up, though the scoreboard might determine how that goes.
Match previews: We've been busy: Ben expects a slightly different starting eleven for United, while I took a stab at NYCFC's starters. We're mostly predicting a win for United tonight, and Adam reminded us of United's last visit to a converted baseball stadium to face an expansion club for the first time. touchline filed this call to arms against NYCFC's deep pockets, and finally we put together an actual preview that underlines the importance of Perry Kitchen.
Elsewhere, Hudson River Blue previewed the game from the NYCFC side of the coin (includes a Big Daddy Kane video); the Washington Post emphasized the economic differences between the clubs; the Washington Times discussed the different ways United has found to win games; and Empire of Soccer expects United to revert back to the high-scoring soccer we saw against Philly and RSL.
What are you drinking: Today started far earlier than normal for me, so I might be looking to put together some sort of coffee-based drink for the evening. Maybe just coffee - Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company's Honduras FTO, for the record - with some Bailey's or Kahlua. It's been that kind of day, but hopefully it won't be that kind of game.
Prediction: I like United's chances here, particularly on set pieces. I think Saborio will put the Black-and-Red in the lead in just such a situation in the first half, and United will grab a second via Chris Rolfe before the hour mark. NYCFC will fight back and get on the board via David Villa, but ultimately United should be closer to their normal winning process rather than the unpunished lunacy we've seen recently. 2-1 DCU.
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