Historically speaking, D.C. United has had some success over the Montreal Impact, losing just twice to le Bleu-Blanc-Noir in nine meetings. However, history seems kind of irrelevant right now. After all, a characteristically stingy United side has scored 9 goals and conceded 6 in their last 2 games, while Montreal has just signed international star Didier Drogba and - surprisingly - sits above the red line in the back half of the season.
For United, tonight's priority will be a return to the defensive solidity that previously was their calling card around MLS. Coming back from 2 goals down is a great way to make memories, but it's not a good plan if your job is to win soccer games. Montreal, meanwhile, will be looking for a benchmark win over the Supporters Shield leaders. Proving they can beat MLS's best teams is vital for the Impact, but perhaps even more important is proving to themselves that they can win games without Drogba and Defender of the Year frontrunner Laurent Ciman.
D.C. United Projected Starting 11: I'm not expecting any changes, but I was more sure about that last week than I am tonight. Andrew Dykstra should start one more game in goal so that Bill Hamid - healing ahead of schedule - gets a few more days to return to full fitness. Chris Korb, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, and Taylor Kemp will retai their spots in defense, as Sean Franklin is probably not yet fit enough to play from the start. The midfield will be Nick DeLeon, Perry Kitchen, Davy Arnaud, and Chris Rolfe, and up front we'll see Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio once again.
Off the bench, I think Ben Olsen will want to give Chris Pontius a few minutes now that he's back in the traveling squad, and we may see fellow returnee Markus Halsti get in as well if United is protecting a lead. Jairo Arrieta will probably come in for one of the strikers no matter what the score is, while if a goal is required I'd expect to see Miguel Aguilar be the third sub rather than Halsti.
Match previews: In the past few days, we've taken a look back at United's last visit to Montreal, split on whether the Black-and-Red would win or draw today in our staff predictions, took note of the welcome return of some big names, wondered what those returning players meant for United's starting 11, looked into Montreal's lineup, and more or less begged United to stop conceding goals in the first 30 minutes of games in our preview.
Elsewhere, Mount Royal Soccer discusses the circumstances that have caused Montreal captain Patrice Bernier to take a leave of absence from the Impact. MLSsoccer.com's preview has plenty of worthwhile figures and stats, and also contains this note: Tonight's referee Sorin Stoica has given 19 red cards and 20 penalty kicks in 38 career MLS games. Steve Goff's preview for the Washington Post finds United focused on getting back to their defensive roots.
What are you drinking: I have some Bells Two Hearted Ale waiting for me in the fridge. It's an outstanding, balanced American IPA that I wish was more readily available. Fortunately a new liquor store opened near me that appears to be carrying it for good.
Prediction: I think we see a return to normal service for United. Espindola and Saborio open up the new-look Montreal back four late in the first half to open the scoring. Ignacio Piatti converts a penalty kick won by Dominic Oduro to start the second half, but Espindola shows some more mastery over a Laurent Ciman-free Montreal defense. The Argentine probably finishes the game deserving some assists, but he'll settle for scoring both goals in a 2-1 win every time.
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