Two teams that played mid-week road games face off tonight at RFK, as D.C. United hosts the San Jose Earthquakes. The similarities are pretty much limited to the fact that both sides were away on Wednesday, as United sent a squad of reserves to Panama while the Quakes played their best 11 against Sporting KC. That means United should have the far fresher legs, but San Jose may have more momentum thanks to their 5-0 shellacking of the Sporks. It's been a while since United's starters have had a feel-good result like that.
There are other concerns for United as well: San Jose changed formations Wednesday, giving United precious little tape to scout, and Ben Olsen also has to think about two or three starters who are ready to play but may not be at 100%. Nonetheless, United needs to get back to collecting points if they want to hang onto the Supporters Shield lead. That means beating a Quakes side that can ill afford to lose if they're going to get into the playoffs.
D.C. United Projected Starting 11: With next to no minutes played by regular starters against Arabe Unido, this is pretty straightforward. Bill Hamid will be in goal, with Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, and Taylor Kemp sure starters in defense. Steve Birnbaum seems likely to start, but after picking up a minor quad contusion in Panama there's a chance we see Kofi Opare instead. In the midfield, I'm guessing it'll be Nick DeLeon and Conor Doyle on the flanks. The central duo of Perry Kitchen and a well-rested Davy Arnaud will be back together, and up top we'll see Chris Rolfe and Alvaro Saborio.
Off the bench, it seems like a pretty safe bet that Michael Farfan and Chris Pontius will get some time as they continue their return to full fitness. Farfan's role will depend on whether United needs a goal or just needs fresh legs to protect a lead, while Pontius will probably slot in on the left side of midfield regardless of the scoreboard. I have a good feeling about Jairo Arrieta subbing into this game and notching a goal, so I'll go with that hunch as the third sub. However, if United is under siege late it could be Markus Halsti instead.
Match previews: Let's start with our stuff: Our whole staff is predicting a win today, while Steven checked in on United at yesterday's training session. Our preview broke down why the Quakes are a huge threat down the wings, and also clarified where you can watch the game if you're not going to be at RFK. Finally, we took a look at San Jose's new formation and the possible player rotation that could be forced upon them after playing mid-week.
Elsewhere on the internet, the Washington Post's Steve Goff found a United side whose phrase of the week appears to be "no excuses," while MLSsoccer's preview is full of facts and notable info as always.
What are you drinking: Beer! Probably Tecate, possibly even purchased from the same man who you might buy beer from at games at RFK. Or it could be another guy, I don't know.
Prediction: I like United's chances here in terms of denying San Jose a chance to use their Plan A, and with the 442 they're probably going to stick with Plan A is all of the plans. Chris Rolfe gets one in the first half, and then Davy Arnaud finishes off a scramble a few minutes into the second half. Chris Wondolowski pulls one back for the Quakes, and we deal with 10-15 nervous minutes, but United notches a third on the counter through Arrieta to win 3-1.
This is your place for pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.