Tonight’s game against NYCFC could be pivotal for D.C. United. It’s early in the season, true, but with the Black-and-Red following tonight’s match at home up with three straight on the road, the need to bank some points is paramount. However, to do that, they’ll have to quiet one of the most dangerous attacking teams in the league, and the last time D.C. played NYCFC, they lost 4-0.
A win is vital, and it will likely require the best United performance of 2017 thus far.
Key player: Jared Jeffrey
With Chris Durkin playing for the Richmond Kickers this weekend, the mystery of how Ben Olsen will address the suspension of Marcelo Sarvas has come to an unsurprising conclusion. Short of playing someone with no MLS experience as a defensive midfielder there, the veteran Brazilian’s spot will go to Jeffrey, who has looked more like a box-to-box ball-winner in the last year or so than a true #6.
Jeffrey has a tough role to fill. In United’s system, Marcelo is both the chief ball-winner and the Black-and-Red’s main link between defense and attack. On top of that, NYCFC’s transition play up the middle resulted in Marcelo’s worst game in a United shirt (last month’s 4-0 road loss). Jeffrey needs to balance his natural impulse to cover a lot of ground and win the ball for United with the need to hold his space and make it hard for the Pigeons to get into zone 14. On top of that, he’ll have to do far better in possession than he did against NYCFC (where he was yanked early in the 2nd half on a day in which he completed just 55% of his passes).
If United’s going to get a win before heading out for three straight road games, Jeffrey needs to respond to what is a big challenge with a top-notch performance.
Location: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 4:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4141) - Bill Hamid; Nick DeLeon, Steve Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, Taylor Kemp; Jared Jeffrey; Lloyd Sam, Ian Harkes, Luciano Acosta, Patrick Nyarko; Jose Ortiz
Bench: Travis Worra, Kofi Opare, Sean Franklin, Julian Buescher, Sebastien Le Toux, Lamar Neagle, Alhaji Kamara
Kamara may seem like a surprise inclusion after the initial plan was a full-season loan with the Kickers (not to mention missing last week with a calf complaint), but Olsen’s choices due to injury, suspension, and other loans are slim. It basically comes down to having three defenders on the bench today, or Kamara getting the nod. So yeah, don’t be surprised when he makes the gameday roster.
Elsewhere, we’ve already talked about Jeffrey, and there are no other question marks anywhere else on the field.
Projected New York City FC starting 11: (433) - Sean Johnson; Ethan White, Maxime Chanot, Alexander Callens, Ronald Matarrita; Alexander Ring, Andrea Pirlo, Maxi Moralez; Jack Harrison, David Villa, Rodney Wallace
Likely subs of note include Tommy McNamara (who came in for Pirlo to score the winner last week) and Khiry Shelton, who has troubled United with his size and speed throughout his time in MLS.
Referee: Drew Fischer
Available TV: UniMas (Spanish), Univision Deportes (Spanish). I hesitate to link how to get the English-language feed because it’s horrible, but for you masochists out there, here you go.
Available streaming: Facebook Live (English), Univision Now (Spanish), Univision Deportes (Spanish)
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: Yesterday, we discussed Marcelo’s potential replacements at length, offered up a balanced set of predictions for today’s game, and checked in at training to find United thinking about getting revenge on the Pigeons for the beatdown they got in the Bronx.
In a couple of hours, we’ll have a look at the probable NYCFC starting eleven as well. Finally, here’s our look at the probable NYCFC starting lineup.
What are you drinking?: It would be nice to have a pregame beer, but most likely I will have to choose between a coffee on the way in or said beer. With temperatures below 60 and a consistent breeze in the forecast, and a second game to attend (Spirit vs. UVA up at the Soccerplex at 7), I’ll probably go with a pour-over from Ceremony Coffee, the pride of Annapolis, MD (well, that and the Naval Academy...it’s a tight race).
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. (feel free to spice this up however you’d like)