A distinctly up-and-down season for D.C. United sees the Black-and-Red once again looking to start a good run of form, this time against Real Salt Lake. Each of United’s previous four wins has been followed by something other than a win, and in those four games DCU has managed just one goal. This won’t be an easy venue to break that pattern, though, as RSL has the third best record in MLS and is unbeaten at Rio Tinto Stadium this season.
However, this might be the right time to play them. Tuesday night, they had to play 120 minutes in the US Open Cup after Seattle forced extra time, and head coach Jeff Cassar only used two subs (one of which came moments before the final whistle) during the game. With only two days of rest, RSL’s top players may be either too tired to play, or at least too tired to play as well as they normally do. That may balance out the elevation factor for United, who have lost their last two MLS regular season visits to Utah. Good thing that’s not "last two visits of any kind," at least.
D.C. United projected starting 11: I hope Ben Olsen sticks with the same formation that works last week. We have no solid reason to think otherwise, so the only changes will be players returning from national team duty and suspension. That means Bill Hamid in goal and a back four of Sean Franklin, Steve Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, and Taylor Kemp. Marcelo Sarvas will start between the lines in the 4141, behind a midfield of Lamar Neagle, Luciano Acosta, Nick DeLeon, and Fabian Espindola. Alvaro Saborio, after a strong outing, will start up front in his first game at Rio Tinto Stadium as a visitor.
Off the bench, the favorites to sub in are Alhaji Kamara (for Saborio), Julian Buescher (for Acosta), and either Rob Vincent or Jared Jeffrey (for Espindola, either as fresh legs on the wing or to move DeLeon wide). Those four players will be joined by Travis Worra, Kofi Opare, and either Luke Mishu or Jalen Robinson (who, aside from a strong outing at center back last week, can also play as a fullback).
Match previews: We took a good long look at RSL’s lineup, while our gameday preview emphasizes how important Marcelo will be if this new formation is going to work. Our attempts to predict the outcome of tonight’s game were varied, though every prediction involved a close game.
Referee: Juan Guzman
What are you drinking?: I had a couple of margaritas with dinner, so maybe I’ll stick with that for the game. Let’s go Cazadores Reposado, a little extra lime juice, and no salt.
Prediction: It all comes down to the RSL lineup for me. I think United can beat the B team Real sent out last week (a move that backfired when they were eliminated in the Open Cup on Tuesday), and I think they’ll beat a lineup of all starters due to RSL’s first-choice lineup likely being exhausted. However, if those groups are blended intelligently - as I suspect is Jeff Cassar’s plan - I see United needing Hamid to put on a show. 1-1 draw in the end, with Aaron Maund opening the scoring before Lucho Acosta gets United a point.
This is your place for pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.