Despite some good moments in most of their matches, D.C. United has started 2016 with three ties, two losses, and zero wins. They've only scored three total goals across their MLS and CONCACAF Champions League games despite taking more shots than their opponent in four of five outings. There are reasons to think they're close to turning a corner, but there are also reasons - like much of the second half against Colorado last week - to wonder if they're going to put it all together.
They'll get a chance to finally put one in the win column this evening against FC Dallas. Oscar Pareja's side is one of the best in MLS when they're at full strength, but this game is being played during the international window. FCD had no fewer than 7 players called in, and when injuries are accounted for they may have included every healthy and available player on their roster on their flight from Texas. While their vaunted attack was untouched, they'll be starting a back-up in goal, at three of four defensive spots, and (arguably) in defensive midfield.
D.C. United Projected 11: I suspect Ben Olsen makes one change up front by choice, and one change in the back due to the international window. That means Travis Worra in goal once again, behind a back four of Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Kofi Opare - stepping in for Steve Birnbaum - and Taylor Kemp. In the midfield, look for a flat four of Patrick Nyarko, Marcelo Sarvas, Nick DeLeon, and Chris Rolfe. Luciano Acosta will float underneath Fabian Espindola, who returns to the starting eleven after a couple games out.
That leaves Lamar Neagle out, but he'll still get in. Look for him to be the first sub, either for Acosta or Rolfe. Rob Vincent is also likely to get in, probably for (you guessed it) Acosta or Rolfe. I certainly hope Julian Buescher gets another opportunity, so let's hope he's coming in for Espindola as United protects a lead. Otherwise, maybe he comes on for DeLeon to give the Black-and-Red a more attacking bent?
Match previews: Want to know the expected lineups? We covered the Black-and-Red's probable starting lineup as well as FCD's likely eleven. Ben put together a preview that notes DeLeon's importance, and we set out some keys for a United victory earlier this morning. Finally, we exchanged questions with Big D Soccer to get a Dallas perspective.
Referee: Juan Carlos Rivero
What are you drinking?: After the debacle that was the USMNT's loss last night, it's tempting to just say "liquor" and leave it at that. However, I have to drive to and from the game, so I'll probably pick up a solid pale ale of some sort on my way in.
Prediction: I think United will pick up their first win today against a badly short-handed FCD, but it will still be tough. Acosta breaks through the patchwork Dallas defense to score his first DC goal and open the scoring, but Maxi Urruti responds almost immediately. Both sides exchange great chances before Rolfe nets a fairly late winner from outside the box. 2-1 United.
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