The 2017 MLS season kicked off last night in Portland, and for D.C. United it starts tonight against Sporting Kansas City. The Black-and-Red, in what will be their final season at RFK Stadium, open their schedule against a KC team that picked up one more point than them last season, and Peter Vermes always brings a tough, physical team to the District. Despite that, a United side expecting themselves to be among MLS’s top teams at years end should also expect to come out on top today.
Key player: Patrick Nyarko
Sporting KC wants to move Graham Zusi to right back for attacking purposes. That suits their desire to be a more attack-minded team, and solves the problem of where to put Zusi these days. It’s also, at least in the short term, great news for left wingers facing them. Zusi struggled at the role with the USMNT, and for United, that needs to continue today.
Nyarko, thankfully, seems tailor-made for the job. On the ball, he constantly tests opposing fullbacks to defend him on the dribble, and Zusi isn’t agile enough to cope. Off the ball, Nyarko’s speed lets him get to the goalmouth, slashing across from the left side; Zusi isn’t as fast and will struggle to beat him to service from the right. And finally, Nyarko is arguably the best defensive winger in MLS, so he should be able to prevent Zusi from having opportunities to serve unchallenged crosses.
The more this game is about Patrick Nyarko, the more likely United takes three points.
Location: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm
Projected United starting 11: (4141) - Bill Hamid; Nick DeLeon, Steve Birnbaum, Sean Franklin, Taylor Kemp; Marcelo Sarvas; Lloyd Sam, Jared Jeffrey, Luciano Acosta/Julian Buescher/Ian Harkes, Patrick Nyarko; Patrick Mullins
Bench: Travis Worra, Bobby Boswell, Rob Vincent, Harkes/Buescher/Acosta, Sebastien Le Toux, Lamar Neagle, Jose Ortiz
Projected SKC starting 11: (433) - Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; Benny Feilhaber, Ilie Sanchez, Roger Espinoza; Gerso Fernandes, Dom Dwyer, Latif Blessing
However, don’t be surprised if Peter Vermes opts for a more defensive choice away from home, with someone like Jimmy Medranda (who was good in 2016) a candidate to play one of the wide positions.
Referee: Robert Sibiga
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?: We’ve covered United’s likely lineup, the probable SKC starters, offered up some (mostly) optimistic predictions, and talked to United’s wingers, two United starters in new positions, and Lucho Acosta’s comfort level coming into 2017.
What are you drinking?: I’ve told some friends I’m going to buy a box of coffee for the tailgate, so probably that. Kickoff conditions are looking to be around 35 and breezy, so tomorrow it’s about warmth.
We’ve made a change in the offseason, combining our typical preview with our typical gamethread. Good news for you: everything’s all in one place. Good news for Jason: he gets an extra 90-120 minutes of sleep the night before a game. Everyone wins!
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Welcome to the 2017 season!