The start of another MLS season is upon us, and you know what that means—more predictions that will almost certainly turn out to be wrong! And silly polls!
D.C. United host Sporting Kansas City in their home opener, the last ever at RFK (or so I’ve heard). The buzz around DCU is positive this year, more positive than it’s been in what feels like a long time. A strong second half of 2016, some promising offseason moves, and just a little bit of ~new stadium magic~ have 2017 already seeming like a good one.
But does everything click in the first game of the season? We’re largely in agreement that the Black-and-Red will start strong.
This is the opening match of the year, and we’ve seen some promising play by the Black-and-Red during preseason. Now, we get to see them all put it together with a lineup that I think could be the best in the East. Will Lucho Acosta be the man in the middle? Will Steve Birnbaum and Sean Franklin command the backline to success? Will Bill Hamid be his awesome self? Will Patrick Mullins put a couple in the back of the net? The answer, I think, is yes to all of the above! Mullins enters a brace and there is some excellent work by our midfield and defense, and we start the season on the right side of things. 2-0 to the good guys.
After too long of a wait (for us fans) or perhaps too short of a wait (for players), regular season MLS is back! It seems like we are always starting the year against Sporting Kansas City and this year is no different. But what is different is the attitude around D.C. United. For the first time in what seems like years, people are excited about this team and excited about its attacking play. I think they get off the season on the right foot, winning 2-0 in the last home opener in RFK history.
I think we will see both the best and the worrisome from D.C. United against Sporting Kansas City. The offense, which ended the season scoring multiple goals in 13 of the final 14 games (including the playoff loss to Montreal), will pick right back up where it started last year. That streak will continue. At the same time, the deficiencies United also showed in the second half will shine through as well. Sean Franklin and Nick DeLeon will grow into their new positions over time, but there will be growing pains early on. United leads twice against SKC, but has to settle for a 2-2 draw.
There will be goals, which honestly isn't what a reasonable person with an understanding of MLS history ought to be predicting for early-season games. But ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I think Patrick Mullins scores early, and Patrick Nyarko grabs one just before halftime. The Sporks get one through a set piece after halftime, but United respond to claim a 3-1 win to kick the season off right.
Assuming that both Dominic Dwyer and Luciano Acosta play, there will be goals in this game. Kansas City's attacking muscle is not to be underestimated, with Benny Feilhaber and now-fullback Graham Zusi joining Dwyer in providing a threat, United's back line will need to open the season in fine form. Put me down for a 2-1 United win, with Patrick Mullins's opener canceled out by Feilhaber, and Lloyd Sam finding the winner.
While Peter Vermes could go defensive and move Zusi away from right back, I think he's willing to take his lumps to make that work. That's great for United, who will be looking to Patrick Nyarko—both as a creator and as a goalscoring threat—as often as possible in this one. I don't think Zusi is up to that task, and with a few new faces still adjusting to the league, this one's too tall of a task for KC. United gets on the board early, with Lloyd Sam and Nick DeLeon combining before the former swings in a cross for Nyarko to finish at the back post. KC gets lucky midway through the half to win a penalty kick that Feilhaber converts, but DCU replies quickly. This time, Nyarko rounds Zusi on the edge of the box before squaring to Mullins for an easy goal.
United probably deserves a third during a strong second half, but more importantly they suffocate KC, getting a 2-1 win that feels a lot less close than the score indicates.
I lean towards Steven on this; sure, the Sporks have their own road woes (apparently they have one win in their last 16 road games, including last year's playoffs), and Zusi-Nyarko will be unpalatable for them, but I'd imagine Benny Feilhaber and Gerso Fernandes may be licking their chops at the right half of D.C.'s backline that will essentially be OJT for a bit. So I think they'll get a couple of goals, however, I think Mullins gets a pair of his own, and I think, assuming Lucho is healthy, we'll all be swearing at Roger Espinoza for doing something untoward to him. 2-2 in a wild one.
Wow, two seems to be the magic number in these predictions—and it just so happens I’m feeling it too. I think this team can definitely score goals, and definitely will to kick off the season well. But however confident the Black-and-Red and their fans are, SKC aren’t exactly a pushover team and I do think they’ll get on the board. I’ll say it’s 2-1 to the home side, a goal in each half, and one of them is a nice christening for my new Mullins jersey.
Share your predictions in the comments, fam, but before you do, our weekly silly poll has returned, so make sure you answer that! (PS, in case you missed it, here's the background you'll want for the poll.)