D.C. United won three straight heading into the international break, changing the tone of their entire season in a one-week span. The Black-and-Red are on a three-game winning streak, and if they make it four in a row today, they’ll be assured of a spot in the MLS playoffs. However, in the way is New York City FC, the best road team (and highest-scoring team) in the league. United clinched their playoff berth last year against NYCFC in a downpour, and they’ll be looking to do it this afternoon on what promises to be a lovely fall afternoon.
D.C. United projected starting XI: By now, this is pretty familiar. Bill Hamid will get the nod in goal. Nick DeLeon will continue to deputize for Sean Franklin, with Steve Birnbaum (what head wound?), Bobby Boswell, and Taylor Kemp making up the rest of the back four. Rob Vincent will sit deep as the midfield anchor underneath Lloyd Sam, Jared Jeffrey, Luciano Acosta, and Patrick Nyarko. Patrick Mullins will start up front against his old club.
There won’t be a surprise for the first sub, either. Lamar Neagle will be called upon to continue his blistering form, replacing either Sam or Nyarko. It also seems probable that Alvaro Saborio will make a 10 minute cameo up front, whether United is going for broke or if he’s just spelling Mullins. The last sub comes down to needs. Julian Buescher could come in for Jeffrey if United needs a goal, or for Acosta if the idea is to add energy in central midfield in the late stages. Kennedy Igboananike could also come in on the left side. The rest of the bench will be Travis Worra, Jalen Robinson, and Luke Mishu.
Match previews: Earlier today, we talked up Mullins in our preview, and looked at NYCFC’s likely starters. Yesterday, we went over the possible positions United could end the season in, and predicted a win (hey, just like last year’s playoff-clinching win over NYCFC).
Referee: Alan Kelly
What are you drinking? Maybe a cup of coffee on the way in if there’s time, and definitely a beer at RFK.
Prediction: I’m going with the staff on this one. United takes the lead on a scramble following a corner, with Birnbaum’s knockdown finished off by Nyarko. Mullins gives United a two-goal edge with a header late in the first half, but David Villa pulls one back on the stroke of halftime. A wild and wide-open second half sees chances both ways before NYCFC levels on a Tommy McNamara long distance strike. United finally finishes the job against the Pigeons, though, with Neagle slotting home a late winner after a through ball from Acosta. 3-2, playoffs, party.
As always, this is your place for pre-game, in-game, and post-game internet shouting.