D.C. United came into the string of three straight games at home on the back of the kind of win that normally jump-starts a season. April itself saw United go 3-1-1 and score 2+ goals in four of five outings. Unfortunately, the last two games have been utterly demoralizing losses, and the Black-and-Red desperately need to get a win over the visiting Chicago Fire, who are coming off of two impressive wins this week and will probably field World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Key player: Patrick Mullins
United has seen two straight home games go by without a goal, meaning they’ve been shut out in four of six matches at RFK this season. That would be a fairly disappointing total for an entire season, and we’re only in mid-May.
Mullins, meanwhile, has had a rough go of it in 2017. He wasn’t able to make much of an impact in the first two games of the year before an injury early against Columbus knocked him out of contention for over a month. And while he hasn’t exactly been poor since returning from that hamstring problem, the fact is that he’s missed a couple chances that the 2016 version of Mullins would have buried.
Today, facing an opponent that has some vulnerabilities at the back, Mullins needs to kick his season into gear. Without Luciano Acosta, United’s attack will be in desperate need for some inspiration. Mullins isn’t just a goal-scorer, and in his college days had to carry an attack on his back. If he can be that multi-faceted threat - as a passer, as a target in the air, holding up play, and of course finishing chances - United can win this game and get their season back on course.
Location: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 4:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4141) - Bill Hamid; Chris Korb, Steve Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, Taylor Kemp; Marcelo Sarvas; Lloyd Sam, Jared Jeffrey, Ian Harkes, Lamar Neagle; Patrick Mullins
Bench: Travis Worra, Kofi Opare, Chris Durkin, Julian Buescher, Sebastien Le Toux, Jose Ortiz, and one from Chris Odoi-Atsem or Jalen Robinson
Buescher is the closest thing to a direct replacement for the suspended Acosta, but I think Olsen is going to choose the most defensively sturdy group out of respect for Chicago’s central midfield (and as an acknowledgement that United’s defense needs help). With injuries elsewhere and Olsen confirming Durkin would be in uniform, the only question is whether Odoi-Atsem or Robinson gets the nod as the second defender off the bench. Everyone else that is fit and available (bar Alhaji Kamara, who will most likely be in Kickers red) is listed.
Projected Chicago Fire starting 11: (4231) - Matt Lampson; Johan Kappelhof, Jonathan Campbell, Joao Meira, Michael Harrington; Dax McCarty, Juninho; Luis Solignac, Michael de Leeuw, David Accam; Nemanja Nikolic
I’ve guessed at a couple players being rotated due to Chicago’s Wednesday night game against the Rapids, but realistically we could see more rotation...or no rotation. Veljko Paunovic is hard to read. My guess here is that the starting fullbacks rest (with Harrington in at LB and Kappelhof moving to the right to make room for Campbell) and that Bastian Schweinsteiger only plays 30 or so minutes. However, we could see him start and multiple starters in the front four rotated out. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Referee: Hilario Grajeda
Available TV: UniMas (Spanish), Univision Deportes (Spanish)
Available streaming: Facebook Live (English), Univision Now (Spanish)
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: We speculated on the lineups of both United and the Fire, while our predictions for tonight are fairly pessimistic. We spent the back half of Filibuster talking about this afternoon’s game, and dug up some details from the past that are very much true and not at all historical fiction.
What are you drinking?: I will be in the press box for this one, so probably whatever bottled water is in the drink cooler up there.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos return to acceptable standards of play!