The month of May has pretty much been a disaster for D.C. United, who followed up two good road results with a depressing string of losses at home. They’ll have to make up for the lost points in arguably the toughest run of games they’ll face this year, which starts tonight against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The Whitecaps have won four of their last six games and have lost just once at BC Place, but United has had the better of them since they joined MLS. The Black-and-Red have conceded just four goals in seven all-time meetings with Vancouver, half of which came in one game in 2011. If United is going to get themselves back in the frame, they’ll need that history to continue.
Key player: Patrick Mullins
Again? Yes, again. United desperately needs to get their attack going, and while there are several players you could cite as needing to improve, it needs to start with Mullins. After playing so well that he was starting to be mentioned as a USMNT prospect in the back half of 2016, Mullins has gone ice cold in an injury-disrupted 2017 season.
Last week, when United created virtually nothing all game long, they still could have escaped with a 1-1 draw had Mullins smashed a loose ball from 7 yards out home. Last year, you’d have bet your paycheck on him putting that one away; this year, Mullins (and, to be fair, just about everyone else) is sending those great looks wide or high or right at the keeper.
Mullins needs to take some pressure off of himself by improving his movement off the ball and bringing back the sort of passing game that made his hold-up play a source of assists and key passes. That won’t be easy against Kendall Waston and Tim Parker, but United needs their best striker to start playing like it.
Location: BC Place (Vancouver, Canada)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4141) - Bill Hamid; Chris Odoi-Atsem, Steve Birnbaum, Kofi Opare, Taylor Kemp; Jared Jeffrey; Lloyd Sam, Ian Harkes, Julian Buescher, Sebastien Le Toux; Patrick Mullins
Bench: Travis Worra, Bobby Boswell, Chris Korb, Marcelo Sarvas, Luciano Acosta, Lamar Neagle, Jose Ortiz
I suspect we’re going to see some rotation today, because Wednesday’s game at Orlando is the more important in terms of United’s Eastern Conference playoff hopes. That means a first pro start for Odoi-Atsem at right back, as well as places in the lineup for Opare, Buescher, and Le Toux (against one of his former clubs). However, it could just as easily be several others, as Ben Olsen has both players in poor form and the obvious need to rest legs ahead of the longest possible trip in MLS.
Projected Vancouver starting 11: (4141) - David Ousted; Sheanon Williams, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Jordan Harvey; Andrew Jacobson; Cristian Techera, Tony Tchani, Christian Bolaños, Alphonso Davies; Fredy Montero
Carl Robinson has to find someone to step in for Matias Laba. With Jacobson dropping back and both Russell Teibert and Brek Shea playing 90 minutes on Tuesday, look for Bolaños to slide into the middle and dangerous 17 year old winger Davies to get the start on the left side. Another option is keeping Bolaños wide and bringing in Nicolas Mezquida (who, like Davies, played 70 minutes in that aforementioned Voyageurs Cup match). In any case, it’s one more attack-minded midfielder coming in than normal, as the Whitecaps normally play a conservative central midfield.
Referee: Sorin Stoica
Available TV: NewsChannel 8 and regional affiliates (check the link for the over-the-air alternate channel in your area), including CW Richmond in RVA.
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?: Our look at Vancouver’s lineup will be up in a couple of hours. Meanwhile, entertain yourself with Filibuster (the second half of which addresses this game) and our rather pessimistic predictions. Also, if you aren’t already, make sure to follow Steven Streff and Ryan Keefer, both of whom have made the trip out to British Columbia for this one.
What are you drinking?: I left this a bit too late, and can’t sleep in because I have things to do this morning. As such, I will probably be having coffee throughout the day. Right now I have Guatemalan Huehuetenango beans roasted by Zeke’s Coffee in Baltimore, so that’s my answer. I’m pretty sure Dale Cooper would approve.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos totally unexpected success!