Coming off of a much-needed victory, D.C. United will look to reduce their reliance on good luck in the second of three games this week. On the road against Orlando City, the Black-and-Red will probably not get the kind of bounces that see their opponent hit the woodwork four separate times, so they’re going to have to build upon the improvements that saw them snap a three-game losing streak over the weekend in Vancouver.
Key player: Marcelo Sarvas (or Jared Jeffrey)
Why two possible key players? Well, United may well end up rotating at the base of their midfield, and that would mean Marcelo getting a start instead of Jeffrey, who has held the job down recently despite performances ranging from middling to poor.
Orlando is very likely to go back to the diamond formation they’ve mostly preferred since the start of April, even with Kaka unavailable. That still leaves options like Matias Perez Garcia or Giles Barnes to play at the point of the diamond, and both players are mobile and dangerous enough to be a threat.
United has really struggled to shut down attacks from between the lines all season long, and that can’t happen tonight. The Black-and-Red need zone 14 to simply be unworkable for Orlando, who would most likely be stuck firing in crosses from their fullbacks as a result. Turning the Lions into a predictable bunch going forward will require good work all over the field, but no one will contribute more in that department than whichever player is shielding the space between the midfield and the defense.
Location: Orlando City Stadium (Orlando, FL)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4141) - Bill Hamid; Chris Odoi-Atsem/Chris Korb, Steve Birnbaum, Kofi Opare, Taylor Kemp/Chris Korb; Marcelo Sarvas/Jared Jeffrey; Lloyd Sam, Ian Harkes/Marcelo, Luciano Acosta, Lamar Neagle/Sebastien Le Toux; Patrick Mullins
Bench: Travis Worra, Jalen Robinson, Korb/Odoi-Atsem, Jeffrey/Marcelo, Julian Buescher, Le Toux/Neagle, and either Alhaji Kamara or Patrick Nyarko
There’s a lot of uncertainty here because of the grueling nature of playing on turf against a physical team on Canada’s Pacific coast, then playing in Florida three days later. It seems like a stretch to lean on Korb in this scenario when comparing how long he was dealing with a knee injury and how long he’s been back, but Ben Olsen has been hesitant to start Odoi-Atsem so far, and also has Kemp’s fitness for Saturday to think about. Robinson could also line up at right back.
Elsewhere, beyond the previous segment’s contents, we could also see Marcelo replace Harkes, and Olsen will have to choose between Neagle and Le Toux on the left. Nyarko made the trip, which is a great sign, but I imagine United will still want to give him one more fitness test (which is why Kamara is also in the squad). With the needs for fresh legs elsewhere, those two are likely vying for one spot.
Projected Orlando starting 11: (442 diamond) - Joe Bendik; Scott Sutter/Rafael Ramos/Kevin Alston, Jose Aja/Leo Pereira, Jonathan Spector, Donny Toia; Will Johnson, Servando Carrasco/Antonio Nocerino, Cristian Higuita; Matias Perez Garcia/Giles Barnes; Carlos Rivas/Barnes, Cyle Larin
Lots of potential rotation here, as Bendik, Sutter, Aja, Spector, Johnson, Perez Garcia, Rivas, and Larin all played 90 minutes in Orlando’s 1-0 loss at Minnesota. Nocerino, who I suspect will be rested, went 74 minutes in that one, but OCSC played that game without normal starter Higuita (who should return on the left side of the diamond). The choice between Perez Garcia and Barnes - especially if Barnes doesn’t have to take a shift up front - is an important distinction. MPG tends to play more slowly than Barnes, with the former looking for more combinations and relying on his technique while the latter tries to break in behind and makes use of his speed.
Referee: Allen Chapman
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?: The latest episode of Filibuster spends some time on both Orlando and United’s possible lineups for this one. As today goes on, we’ll have a look at the Lions’ lineup, predictions, and possibly more. The compressed schedule will not stop B&RU.
What are you drinking?: Leaning towards a nice gin and tonic, but I’m writing this the night before. Who knows?
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos continued good fortune!