The final match of the weekend in MLS sees D.C. United facing their closest pursuer in the Eastern Conference playoff race, as they'll host New York City FC tonight. At the time this was written, United sat in 6th place in the East, ahead of NYCFC on goal difference (two of four teams in the East with 10 points). However, the sides appear to be going in different directions, as NYCFC has squandered a home-heavy early slate and has just one win in their last eight outings. United, after struggling to start the year, has two wins in their last four games, and has shown a tendency to blow out weak defenses - a problem NYCFC suffers from - at RFK Stadium.
D.C. United Projected 11: Last week's use of a 4141 was interesting, but with some players returning from illness and suspension and Chris Rolfe being banned for a game by the MLS Disciplinary committee, I think we see a return to the 442 that United fans are more familiar with. That means Travis Worra will be in goal behind a back four of Sean Franklin, Steve Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, and Taylor Kemp. In the midfield, don't expect any surprises. Patrick Nyarko will be on the right, Marcelo Sarvas and Nick DeLeon will resume their central partnership, and Lamar Neagle will start on the left. Up front, I expect Luciano Acosta and Alvaro Saborio to start, though Fabian Espindola's fitness is a question mark that could complicate things.
Off the bench, whichever of Espindola, Acosta, or Saborio does not start will sub in around the hour mark. I'd also expect to see Rob Vincent replace one of the wingers in the late stages, and without Rolfe there's room for Miguel Aguilar to get into this game as the third sub if Ben Olsen follows his normal patterns (and there are no injuries or red cards to deal with). Tally Hall, Kofi Opare, Luke Mishu, and Jared Jeffrey will probably round out the bench.
Match previews: We nearly unanimously predicted a win, examined the probable lineups for both United and NYCFC, looked at the keys to a United victory, and summed up everything concerning today's game in our preview this morning.
Referee: Allen Chapman
What are you drinking?: I am going to pick up some beer on my way in. I'm thinking it'll be a respectable pilsner of some kind, but something might catch my eye at the liquor store.
Prediction: There are no excuses for United today against an NYCFC team that can't defend to save its life. Saborio will score the opener before halftime, and Neagle will pad the lead early in the 2nd half. David Villa will do some kind of David Villa thing to give NYCFC some life, but I have a hunch that Aguilar bags the third in the late going to seal the deal. 3-1 United.
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