In desperate need of some good news, D.C. United is probably going to have to put together their most complete showing of 2016 to return to the District with any points from tonight's game against the San Jose Earthquakes. The Quakes play a direct, uncompromising style that will test United's seemingly fragile mental state for 90 minutes. Furthermore, this is a San Jose team that has ground out a home win over Colorado - something United couldn't do recently - and knocked off the defending MLS Cup champions in their last outing at Avaya Stadium.
Key Player: Bobby Boswell
Last week was rough for United's captain, and only one team - the New York Red Bulls, thankfully enough - has conceded more goals during this young season. He'll now go up against a team whose coach, Dominic Kinnear, knows his habits better than pretty much anyone else on the planet. That's not exactly a great situation, especially with the possibility that United could be starting their third different goalkeeper in the first seven competitive games of 2016.
There are also the specifics that the Quakes bring to the table. San Jose doesn't attack in a complicated way, but they do tend to make defenders do a lot of straightforward defending. We're talking about winning headers and tackles, mostly. The Quakes keep defenders busy, and they do it mostly by being direct and starting two very hard-working forwards in Chris Wondolowski and Quincy Amarikwa.
If United is going to get a result tonight, they're going to need to produce their best defensive showing yet in 2016. Boswell is going to have to lead the way by communicating, organizing, and avoiding the kinds of avoidable mistakes he - and, let's be clear, others - have been guilty of lately. Just about everyone on the team has to step up right now, but arguably no one needs to get back to their best more than Boswell for this game.
Location: Avaya Stadium (San Jose, CA)
Kick-off time: 10:30pm Eastern
Available TV: NewsChannel8 and regional affiliates (check the link for the over-the-air alternate channel in your area)
Available streaming: MLS Live for those outside the blackout radius
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.