The 2017 season started with a grinding 0-0 draw for D.C. United that left fans frustrated. The fact that a home game against a playoff team was still seen as a game the Black-and-Red should be winning is a good sign, but the points left on the table still tend to grate. Today’s trip to face New York City FC is United’s only away game in their first five matches, and ideally United will be the team irritating the home side this time around. A win or draw against a fellow Eastern Conference playoff side is always welcome, and United will be looking to return to the free-scoring soccer we saw in the preseason and the final months of last season.
Key player: Steve Birnbaum
Sometimes this is a tricky choice, but when facing David Villa? Yup, this one’s not too complicated. Villa is MLS’s best striker, and throw in his tendency to drift left of center (i.e. where Birnbaum, United’s right-center back, will be), and you have an extremely demanding 90 minutes for one of United’s best players. If Birnbaum is able to keep tabs on Villa, organize the defense around him, and force NYCFC to look for another scoring option, the Black-and-Red will be in a great position to board their southbound train with three points in the bag.
Birnbaum might be able to help at the other end, too. NYCFC’s defense is not good in the air, and have been historically poor defending set pieces. On Yankee Stadium’s “110yd x 70yd” field, space will be at a premium. That means more physical play, and if United turns those moments into free kicks, they have a major advantage. Whether Birnbaum is supposed to go to goal or simply knock the ball down for someone else, United’s set pieces need to be on point. That means good delivery, and also strong execution when it comes to things that were rehearsed on the training ground.
Location: Yankee Stadium (The Bronx, NY)
Kickoff time: 2:00pm
Projected United starting 11: (4141) - Bill Hamid; Nick DeLeon, Steve Birnbaum, Sean Franklin, Taylor Kemp; Marcelo Sarvas; Lloyd Sam, Jared Jeffrey, Julian Buescher/Luciano Acosta, Patrick Nyarko; Patrick Mullins
Bench: Travis Worra, Bobby Boswell, Rob Vincent, Ian Harkes/Acosta/Buescher, Sebastien Le Toux, Lamar Neagle, Jose Ortiz
Projected NYCFC starting 11: (4231) - Sean Johnson; RJ Allen, Maxime Chanot, Alexander Callens, Ronald Matarrita; Alexander Ring, Andrea Pirlo; Jack Harrison/Thomas McNamara, Maxi Moralez, Rodney Wallace/McNamara; David Villa
Expect at least one sub to change NYCFC’s formation. Patrick Vieira has so many good attackers he can throw into games that a current Panama national team player like Miguel Camargo seems likely to watch this one from the stands.
Referee: Alan Kelly
Available TV: NewsChannel 8 and regional affiliates (check the link for the over-the-air alternate channel in your area), and the YES Network. Yes, this was originally supposed to be on WJLA. No, we don’t know what happened.
Available streaming: MLS Live for those outside the blackout radius
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: Early this week, the second half of Filibuster covered today’s game with Hudson River Blue’s Raf Noboa Y Rivera. Our staff predictions were kind of all over the place, while our discussion of United’s lineup focused on whether Acosta will play or not. We also have a deep dive into the probable NYCFC starting eleven.
What are you drinking?: I’m heading over to Ivy City for the watch party we’ve set up with Dock FC. Join us for specials on Heineken and Guinness, plus, you know, to watch the game. Given the cold weather, I’m leaning towards a Guinness. Much of our staff will be there, and we’d love to see the place full of B&RU readers!
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos!