After last week's aggravating loss, D.C. United will look to pick themselves up and get back on course today against the New England Revolution. They'll have to do it without Ben Olsen on the sidelines, as the Black-and-Red's head coach was suspended for, uh, trying to allow soccer to happen without delays? Anyway, United will look to improve on the 0-0 draw they got last month when these two teams faced each other, while the inconsistent Revs come to town looking for their first away win of 2016.
Key Player: Fabian Espindola
United desperately needs Espindola to be the hub of their attack, and they can't do that if he's always calling his own number or pulling out wide left. United's best performance of the season involved Espindola trusting the players around him during attacking moves. If we start to see United's attacking moves breaking down 30-40 yards from goal, or ending with an impulsive shot from distance, or simply lacking a central option, we will likely see the Black-and-Red struggling to create real chances.
No one should argue for Espindola to play as a standard #9. It's not his game at all, and he doesn't even have the skill set for it. There is a middle ground here that he has to reach, though, so that United isn't constantly seeking a central presence that isn't there. Chris Rolfe can provide it some of the time, as will the wingers (despite the extra 20-30 yards those runs require), but that can't be all of it. Against a team likely playing without their central defensive leader, Espindola needs to make sure he's a presence around the restraining arc at the top of the box.
Furthermore, Espindola has to be willing to connect more passes with his teammates, or take the risk of dribbling at someone more often. United can't have another game where their shot chart shows a long line of missed or blocked 30+ yard attempts. The Revs will welcome those shots, because they are extremely unlikely to end up as goals. The Black-and-Red have had more of an attacking bent than in 2015, but they have to make sure their offensive moves end closer to the goal than to the midfield stripe.
Location: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (Washington, DC)
Kick-off time: 5:30pm Eastern
Available TV: WJLA ABC 7 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.
Our gamethread will be posted an hour before kickoff.