A troubled 2016 season for D.C. United has left them needing to reverse two season-long trends to make the playoffs. Last week’s draw left the Black-and-Red with MLS’s worst home record (4W-3D-4L), which is pretty terrible news for a team with one win in eleven road games. Despite starting their last two games off well and getting a lead both times, United has just two points halfway through a season-defining stretch of four straight at home. Today, against a short-handed Portland Timbers side clinging to the last playoff spot in the West, only a win will do.
Key player: Luciano Acosta
Lucho has had his moments in the last two games, making fools out of opposing midfielders in traffic to keep an attacks moving and creating chances. However, all that good approach work amounted to 2 key passes and 0 assists in 180 minutes, and in games where United controlled more than half of the match. Numerous times, he’s chosen one extra pass when a shot was called for, or a shot when there’s no room to go to goal.
With Diego Chara suspended, and midfield partner Ben Zemanski almost certainly one more week from a return from injury, Acosta will have his chance to both keep us entertained while also dominating a game. Whether the Timbers stick with the 442 they tried last week or return to 4231, their main defensive midfielder Jack Jewsbury does not have the speed or agility to keep up with Acosta.
This has to be a major factor in the game if United is going to get the win in this one. There’s a domino effect at play here: If Jewsbury is overwhelmed, Darlington Nagbe will have to help more. If Nagbe is busy sacrificing in a deep role, PTFC is nowhere near as threatening as an attack. With MVP candidate Diego Valeri, Fanendo Adi and his 11 goals on the year, and possibly United killer Jack McInerney all on the field, anything that helps the defense is going to mean a lot tonight.
Location: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (Washington, DC)
7:00pm Eastern Make that 8:00pm Eastern
UPDATE: Due to excessive heat warning, kickoff has been DELAYED to 8pm. Gates will still open at 6pm. #DCU #DCvPOR pic.twitter.com/xNvRF3NF9L— D.C. United (@dcunited) August 13, 2016
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 one hour before kickoff.