Despite largely having the better of Toronto FC over the years, it has been a while since D.C. United actually beat the Reds. You have to go back almost two full years, to July 30th, 2014, when United brushed TFC aside by a 3-0 scoreline. Since then, United has scored just one goal across three meetings, with Toronto winning twice at RFK Stadium on either side of last June’s rain-soaked 0-0 draw at BMO Field.
United will want to take this series back to historical norms, because this game is coming at a crucial moment in the season. The Black-and-Red could make it five points from a four-game road swing, giving them a solid platform from which to build up some points in the upcoming four-game homestand. This could be the time we see United make their move and solidly establish themselves as one of the East’s contenders.
However, there’s also a half-empty way to see the schedule. Starting next Sunday, United will play 7 games in 33 days, including five straight against teams that currently hold playoff spots. Stumbling into that stretch of games, and continuing their middling record on East Capitol Street, could leave United needing a late-season surge to make the playoffs for a third straight season.
This may be a mid-season MLS game - you know, the ones people routinely call "meaningless" in a league where playoff spots are determined by a stray point or goal difference every year - but it also looks like a fork in the road for United.
D.C. United projected starting 11: Don’t expect too many surprises. The 4141 will stay in place, with Bill Hamid in goal behind a back four of Sean Franklin, Steve Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, and Taylor Kemp. Marcelo Sarvas will continue to serve as the team’s deep-lying midfield general, with Lloyd Sam, Luciano Acosta, Jared Jeffrey, and Nick DeLeon ahead of him. Alvaro Saborio will lead the line up top.
Off the bench, look for Patrick Nyarko and Lamar Neagle to both come into this game to play as wingers, with DeLeon probably moving inside for either Jeffrey (if United is behind) or Acosta (if DC is in a good position to get a result). I imagine that Ben Olsen would like to get Patrick Mullins into this game if he can, but injuries, fatigue, and the scoreboard will determine whether that works out or not. Tally Hall, Kofi Opare, Jalen Robinson, and one of either Rob Vincent or Julian Buescher will make up the rest of the substitutes bench. Alhaji Kamara will miss out due to a hamstring strain apparently picked up in training this week.
Match previews: It’s been a busy week. Our general preview underlines the importance of Birnbaum in containing Jozy Altidore, while we took a long look at how TFC will line up earlier this morning. We wrote plenty of things about the new guy, discussed United’s iron men, and finally went all over the place with our staff predictions.
Referee: Armando Villarreal
What are you drinking?: Probably a Mexican Mule. That’s lime juice, tequila, and ginger beer over ice served in as cold a cup as you can manage (I don’t own a copper mug so I suppose my mules are all illegitimate). I also like to muddle a little slice of jalapeño with the lime juice and tequila before adding it into the chilled glass.
However, it’s so damn hot, there’s a chance I go for something that requires less effort (probably a gin and tonic). Important decisions, I know.
Prediction: I’m sticking with my answer to the predictions post linked above. I have a suspicion that TFC will get a goal fairly early after having to live with their debacle against a nine-man San Jose all week. United will spend some time on the ropes, but they won’t go down, and eventually Lucho Acosta will get an equalizer that is equal parts skillful and scrappy. 1-1, because the only streak United has shown themselves to be capable of this year is back-to-back ties.
This is your place for pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.