An offseason that saw D.C. United remodel their midfield and slightly change how they attack has brought some promise, but so far the new-look Black-and-Red have yet to turn in a solid 90 minute performance. Today, at what will be a frigid RFK Stadium, they'll look to set that right against the Colorado Rapids. The Fighting Tim Howards added some big pieces this offseason, but all three - Shkelzen Gashi, Jermaine Jones, and Marco Pappa - are either suspended or are short of the fitness required to start tonight.
That means a short-handed Colorado will come to a venue that they have struggled in for their entire existence trying to beat a team that has spread the elements of a winning side across portions of four games. If United can put most of those elements together at once, they should be able to grab three points. If not, though, the defense-first Rapids are capable of taking a point or three back to the Rockies.
D.C. United Projected 11: I don't see too many surprises coming here. Travis Worra will retain his spot in goal, with a very familiar back four of Sean Franklin, Steve Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, and Taylor Kemp in front of him. Patrick Nyarko will return from injury to play on the right side of midfield, with Marcelo Sarvas, Nick DeLeon, and Chris Rolfe making up the rest of the quartet. Luciano Acosta will take up the free role between the midfield and attack, while Lamar Neagle will get another start up front.
Off the bench, look for Fabian Espindola - having rested his hamstring while being a new dad this week - will get 30 or so minutes up front (with Rolfe or Acosta making way). The next subs are harder to predict, but I'd like to see Miguel Aguilar get some time in this one. The third substitute will probably be Julian Buescher, but if the weather gets really ugly I wouldn't be surprised to see Alvaro Saborio brought in to offer up a more physical option up top.
Match previews: Over the past few days, we've taken a look at both the likely Colorado lineup and United's probable starters. Earlier today, our preview focused on Nyarko's importance in this game, while Keys to Victory discussed the importance of a proactive approach from United's perspective.
Referee: Chris Penso
What are you drinking?: I was up late last night, and it's cold today, so the best answer is coffee. Maybe a beer if I get to Lot 8 in time, but it will be out of a cooler of random beers so I have no idea what it will be.
Prediction: I don't expect a classic given the conditions and the teams involved, but I do expect United to push forward in an effort to get a lead (which would force the Rapids to play a more open game than they like to). Eventually it pays off, with Acosta bagging his first United goal following a turnover. The game will have its fair share of near-misses for both teams at 1-0 before Sarvas cleans up after a corner kick scramble in the latter stages to seal a win for United. 2-0 good guys.
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