Three points tonight will assure D.C. United of a spot in the MLS playoffs, but Columbus Crew SC - themselves a win from clinching a postseason berth - are going to offer stiff opposition tonight at RFK Stadium. The Black-and-Red are in the middle of a potentially draining stretch of five games in fifteen days, but thanks to a policy of heavy player rotation in the CONCACAF Champions League they have no excuses in the league. United badly needs a win not just to give a jolt to their fading Supporters Shield and Eastern Conference title hopes, but also to simply end a four-game winless run in MLS that extends back to August 8th.
D.C. United Projected Starting 11: It seems pretty unlikely that we see any surprises here. Bill Hamid will start in goal behind a back four of Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, and Taylor Kemp. The midfield seems likely to feature Nick DeLeon, Perry Kitchen, Markus Halsti, and Chris Rolfe (though defensive requirements may see DeLeon and Rolfe swap their normal spots to help slow down the Crew attack). Up front, look for Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio.
Off the bench, it seems probable that Michael Farfan and Jairo Arrieta will enter the game, though Farfan's role will come down to the scoreboard. I personally hope to see Miguel Aguilar get into this game, as his dribbling ability on the wing may end up being a real problem for a Columbus team that is far better going forward than they are at defending. However, it seems more likely to me that Chris Pontius or Conor Doyle would be the third sub.
Match previews: Our preview from earlier today has links to everything we've written on this game in case you're cramming before kickoff.
What are you drinking?: If you're at RFK today and come to our meet-up, you'll get to find the answer to this question in person. I haven't actually purchased the beer yet, though, so it could be anything. Well, any Maryland beer. I have to turn up for my good state against the Virginia hordes that make up much of the rest of the staff.
Prediction: I don't think United is going to have much of the game for the first hour, but they'll stand strong at the back and keep it scoreless. Eventually, the mental strength of the two teams will come into play: United will still see the zeroes on the scoreboard and keep plugging away, while the Crew will get frustrated and start to make mistakes. Eventually these circumstances will set the stage for a Bobby Boswell header from a corner kick. Columbus will throw crazy numbers forward, but Bill Hamid will turn into a brick wall and carry United to a vital 1-0 victory.
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