After six straight games against Eastern Conference opposition, D.C. United has left their preferred time zone for the first time in a month in a half to face Sporting Kansas City tonight. The Black-and-Red have been consistently inconsistent all season, having experienced neither a winning nor a losing streak in 2016. Coming off of a last-second loss in Philadelphia last week, that might sound like good news.
On the other hand, United has not won a game on the road in any competition since August 19th, 2015 (a 1-0 win over Arabe Unido in the CONCACAF Champions League), and their last MLS road win was that farcical 1-0 win in Montreal on August 8th, 2015 in which DCU were out-shot 25 to 1. As a visitor in MLS, United hasn't managed to score two or more goals in thirteen months (April 25th, 2015's 2-1 win at Vancouver).
Kansas City may sound like a bad opponent to face in these circumstances, but Sporting is also struggling right now. KC started the season with four wins in their first five games, but since then have gone 1W-2D-6L. Their palatial stadium has gained the reputation for being one of MLS's toughest venues, but right now Sporting's home record is just 3W-1D-3L at the moment.
Sporting has lost seven of their fourteen games this year, and they'll be playing tonight without three starters (Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, and Soni Mustivar) due to international duty as well as losing a fourth (Roger Espinoza) to suspension. Of course, United will be without Steve Birnbaum, their top defender, as well as leading scorer Alvaro Saborio. Tonight's game, in all honesty, will probably end up being won by the team that pulls it together and makes the fewest mistakes.
Key Player: Bill Hamid
Could it be anyone else? United's best player is reportedly going to get the start in goal tonight after missing the first twelve games of the club's MLS slate. Travis Worra has surprised many observers while deputizing for Hamid with some strong performances, but there simply isn't a goalkeeper playing anywhere in CONCACAF that can match Hamid.
The Annandale native may be tested early in his first game of 2016. KC's high pressure style requires them to attack as quickly as possible following the opening kickoff, and what may go overlooked from their 3-1 home loss to Real Salt Lake last week is that they had more or less camped out in RSL's half before a terrible giveaway handed their guests the lead. KC plays fewer balls through the air than they have in the past, but they're still going to surge forward and force both Hamid and the back four to do a lot of work in the early going. It will be critical that they make it through that phase of the game without giving anything away.
Location: Children's Mercy Park (Kansas City, KS)
Kick-off time: 7:00pm Eastern
Update: Or maybe not. The game was being considered for postponement due to United's flight being delayed and some severe weather projected for this evening, but there are reports that the game will take place at 9:30pm Eastern now. We will let you know when we hear official confirmation from the team.
Available TV: UniMas (Spanish), Univision Deportes USA (Spanish)
Another update: UniMas has dropped coverage of the game. The match will still be televised on Univision Deportes USA, however:
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.