There hasn’t been a lot to cheer about in recent weeks when it comes to D.C. United. One goal scored across five competitive games (including elimination from the Open Cup by a lower-level team) will do that, as will a distinctly mediocre 2-3-3 string of results across the last eight games. Today against the New England Revolution, one gets the sense that things have to change.
On one hand, that’s a favorable opponent for DC. United has had New England’s number for a while now, with three wins and two draws in the last five games between the teams. During that span, the Revs have scored just three goals, and in 2016 United has shut them out twice. The Black-and-Red have also won each of the last four meetings at RFK, including a playoff victory last fall.
However, the Revs have won three of their last four games, and have rounded into some better form than the sub-par soccer they played in March and April. While Kei Kamara hasn’t scored yet, he adds an element to New England’s attack that hasn’t been there this season. The Revs were pretty clearly outplayed in Vancouver, but gutted out a 2-1 win last week that showed that this group has the character to go on the road and grind out a result.
Key player: Alhaji Kamara
Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio are off the injury report, but it seems unrealistic to expect them to immediately fix an offense that has one goal in 527 minutes. For one, both players are coming of injuries that don’t just tend to clear up 100% instantly. More importantly, both players have struggled to provide consistent form. Espindola hasn’t scored since April 9th, and his early season form mostly consisted of ignoring his teammates to go it alone. There has been some progress on that front, but he still doesn’t look like the swaggering key to United’s attack that he has been in past seasons.
Saborio at least can point to his departure for Copa America duty as being right around the same time United’s attack stopped producing goals (Sabo scored in the 2-0 win over the Red Bulls, which is the last time United got two goals in one match). However, Saborio’s time with the Black-and-Red has left major questions over whether he can truly be relied upon as a starter.
That leaves United with Kamara up front, and there are reasons to feel optimistic. The 22 year old has United’s last competitive goal, and has shown a knack for causing chaos with his runs and his fearlessness inside the box. After crashing out of the Open Cup, Ben Olsen asserted that Kamara’s movement will be rewarded when the full first-team offense is supplying him.
We can’t say that’s going to happen tonight. Patrick Nyarko is still dealing with a concussion, as is Chris Rolfe. Still, United will have a stronger team on the field to start this one than they did at the Soccerplex. It’s vital that this group - no matter whether Kamara, Espindola, or Saborio starts - gets going ASAP. A loss today could leave the Black-and-Red 5 points outside the playoffs, and a 3W-1D-4L home record is already bad enough.
Location: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Available TV: NewsChannel 8 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.