Two teams that haven’t gotten off to a good start in MLS this year meet tonight, as D.C. United hosts Columbus Crew SC. United started the season with a frustrating home draw before getting stomped by a ruthless NYCFC. Against a Crew side that doesn’t look to have progressed much since last year, it’s a big opportunity for United - who start a three-game homestand tonight - to get their season in gear.
Key player: Marcelo Sarvas
Despite all the talk about how United needs Lucho Acosta back, and whether Ian Harkes can push into the starting lineup, the more crucial question for the Black-and-Red today comes deeper in the midfield. Marcelo has not had a good start to the season, with NYCFC in particular seeming able to pull him out of position or win 50/50 balls against him at crucial moments.
With Rob Vincent dealing with a knee injury, United doesn’t have a lot of options to press Marcelo for playing time right now. Jared Jeffrey hasn’t been considered in this deeper role since Ben Olsen switched to a 4141, and while Chris Durkin has tons of promise, it seems unrealistic to expect him to be plugged into the lineup while United is pursuing their first win against a conference foe with a crafty #10.
As such, it’s on Marcelo to show that the first two games of the season were just poor performances rather than an indicator of his actual ability in 2017. That will require using his experience to anticipate plays rather than leaving himself having to chase the game. Being that half-step earlier means turning 50/50 balls into 80/20 balls, which means springing attacks in transition and walling off the back four rather than being a problem.
Location: Robert F. Kennedy Stadium (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected United starting 11: (4141) - Bill Hamid; Nick DeLeon, Steve Birnbaum, Sean Franklin, Taylor Kemp; Marcelo Sarvas; Lloyd Sam, Ian Harkes/Jared Jeffrey, Luciano Acosta/Ian Harkes/Julian Buescher, Patrick Nyarko; Patrick Mullins
Bench: Travis Worra, Bobby Boswell, Sebastien Le Toux, Lamar Neagle, Jose Ortiz, and the two non-starters out of Acosta, Buescher, Harkes, and Jeffrey
Projected Crew starting 11: (4231) - Zack Steffen/Brad Stuver; Harrison Afful, Josh Williams/Lalas Abubakar/Alex Crognale, Nicolai Naess, Jukka Raitala; Wil Trapp, Artur/Mohammed Abu; Ethan Finlay, Federico Higuain, Justin Meram; Ola Kamara
Steffen’s status is up in the air due to a shoulder problem, while one center back spot is an unknown due to Jonathan Mensah’s suspension. The major game-changing sub for Columbus is probably target man Adam Jahn.
Referee: Ted Unkel
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.
What do we have to say about it?: If you’re reading this early, you have time to give Filibuster (which previews this one with Massive Report’s Kris Landis) a listen. Since then, we’ve checked in with United at training, predicted that United will at the very least avoid defeat, speculated on United’s starting lineup (which is mostly a question of whether Lucho Acosta starts), and examined the Crew lineup.
What are you drinking?: Whether or not it rains all day or just during United’s game, I’ll undoubtedly be stopping for coffee on my way in after starting my day with the Washington Spirit’s preseason opener up at the Soccerplex. Here’s hoping I have time to hit Peregrine Espresso over in Capital Hill. Otherwise, catch me at a Starbucks or a Panera somewhere near the Beltway.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos!