D.C. United was showing some modest signs of improvement heading into the international break, but they’ll have to ratchet that up quickly today against league-leading Toronto FC. In particular, they’re going to have to break out of a wretched run in front of goal, where they’ve scored just one goal - an ill-gotten penalty kick - in six games. Barring a defensive masterclass against Sebastian Giovinco and TFC, Unitedis going to have to find the back of the net to get a much-needed result today.
Key player: Bill Hamid
As much as United does need to break out of their funk in front of goal, they’re also going to need to rely on a classic recipe to stop the best team in MLS right now. That recipe? Absorb pressure and rely on Hamid to be spectacular. No goalkeeper in MLS is capable of turning in the kind of unbeatable performance that Hamid can deliver, and with all of TFC’s weapons it’s hard to imagine United getting a point or three without their GK being the star.
One of the major tests against Toronto is the wide variety of goals they can score. Long range shots? Combination play? Through balls? Set pieces? Crosses (both lofted and driven)? Picking out late runners into the box? The Reds can do all of that thanks to a truly gifted set of attackers and midfielders. It seems unfair to burden Hamid with so much so frequently, but - barring an early red card or two - a United victory that doesn’t include a Team of the Week sort of performance from Hamid today just seems like wishful thinking.
Location: BMO Field (Toronto, Canada)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Bill Hamid; Chris Korb/Chris Odoi-Atsem, Steve Birnbaum, Kofi Opare/Bobby Boswell, Taylor Kemp; Jared Jeffrey, Ian Harkes; Lloyd Sam, Luciano Acosta, Patrick Nyarko; Jose Ortiz
Bench: Travis Worra, Boswell/Opare, Jalen Robinson, Marcelo Sarvas, Julian Buescher, Lamar Neagle, Sebastien Le Toux
The starting striker might be an issue. Ortiz went 77 minutes against Christos FC, while Neagle and Le Toux both went the full 90. Most likely, Ortiz will get the start, with one of Neagle or Le Toux coming in for him after an hour or so. Ben Olsen will have to be selective with his subs given United’s critical home game against Atlanta on Wednesday, so look for him to remove Lucho Acosta after 70 or so minutes due to his ongoing ankle issue.
Projected TFC starting 11: (352) - Alex Bono; Eriq Zavaleta, Drew Moor, Chris Mavinga; Steven Beitashour, Marky Delgado, Michael Bradley/Benoit Cheyrou, Victor Vazquez, Justin Morrow; Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore
Super sub Tosaint Ricketts is out injured, and Bradley may need a rest after his USMNT obligations (and TFC’s upcoming games next Wednesday and Friday). Cheyrou is a strong back-up for the latter, while teen sensation Raheem Edwards could sub in up front or out wide.
Referee: Jose Carlos Rivero
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?: We talked about this game on Filibuster, and we’ll have some pieces concerning it as today goes on. Look for Opposition 11 at 9am.
What are you drinking?: I’m hoping to get a growler filled up after the Spirit game ends, so if things go well it’ll be whatever that beer ends up being.
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)