In some ways, this is a bad time for D.C. United to be facing the LA Galaxy. After a horrific start, the Galaxy have sorted some things out in terms of tactics, while Curt Onalfo asserted his leadership by surprisingly winning a conflict with defender Jelle Van Damme without alienating one of his key players. Giovani Dos Santos and Romain Alessandrini are providing plenty of firepower, and the Galaxy have won three straight (all away from home).
However, a rash of injuries in defensive positions have left LA vulnerable at the back. They’ll be starting second- or third-choice players in goal, at two spots on their back four, and in defensive midfield. The key for United might be to have the courage to throw numbers at this group, and the skill to make that risk pay off.
Key player: Jose Ortiz
Fresh off of a suspension for an act of simulation that drew quite a bit of discussion and ire league-wide, Ortiz is at a bit of a crossroads. Patrick Mullins will be out for all of the brutal run of games in the back half of June, and may even be done for the year. United’s other forwards are either veteran winger/forwards, or a potential diamond in the rough being developed long-term.
Meanwhile, Ortiz is trying to win a permanent deal with United, and in 10 appearances he has just one goal and zero assists (plus two penalty kicks won). There’s a chance that summer reinforcements are coming, and the window for Ortiz to prove he can succeed in this league is closing.
The perfect answer to both his own problems and the club’s home woes is to put in a big performance tonight, and then carry that form into the summer. United badly missed a finisher against Orlando, and wasted the handful of good chances they created in their previous string of home games. If Ortiz buries some of those looks tonight - and they should be there against this Galaxy defense - maybe there’s a way forward for him and United.
Location: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4141) - Bill Hamid; Chris Odoi-Atsem, Steve Birnbaum, Kofi Opare, Taylor Kemp; Marcelo Sarvas/Jared Jeffrey; Lloyd Sam, Ian Harkes, Luciano Acosta, Lamar Neagle/Sebastien Le Toux; Jose Ortiz
Bench: Travis Worra, Bobby Boswell, Chris Korb, Jeffrey/Marcelo, Patrick Nyarko, Le Toux/Neagle, and either Alhaji Kamara or Julian Buescher
I suspect Odoi-Atsem stays in the lineup, because a) he played pretty well in Orlando, and b) he might actually be able to keep up with Galaxy left winger Ema Boateng. However, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Chris Korb replace one of the fullbacks from Wednesday just for fresh legs. Elsewhere, I think Marcelo (who didn’t start in Vancouver) has the edge in defensive midfield, but Jeffrey has done the “start 3 games in a week” thing before.
Further forward, Ian Harkes will return to the lineup, Lucho Acosta will move back into the middle, and Jose Ortiz should return up front after his suspension. Ben Olsen will have to sort out who of Neagle and Le Toux gets the start on the left. Nyarko will probably build on his 23 minute appearance Wednesday, but I wouldn’t expect more than 35 minutes given how long he was out.
Projected Galaxy starting 11: (442) - Jon Kempin; Bradley Diallo, Dave Romney, Jelle Van Damme, Ashley Cole; Romain Alessandrini, Rafael Garcia, Joao Pedro, Emmanuel Boateng; Giovani Dos Santos, Gyasi Zardes
Kempin is the third choice for Curt Onalfo, but he starts because Brian Rowe is injured and Clement Diop is with Senegal’s national team. Romney steps in for the injured Daniel Steres, while Rafael Garcia should get a start to a long list of injured Galaxy central midfielders, including Jermaine Jones.
Despite all that, LA’s offense is still a huge problem. Alessandrini has six goals and six assists in 12 games, while Dos Santos has scored in four straight games (picking up five goals in just eleven shot attempts in the process). They’re carrying the team on their backs.
Referee: Drew Fischer
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 spent a good deal of time sorting out United’s rotation-influenced lineup, as well as the Galaxy’s injury-hit starting 11. Our predictions are...uncertain, while we brought Josie Becker onto the last episode of Filibuster to preview this game.
What are you drinking?: Come to our tailgate in Lot 8 today and find out!
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos beating LA at RFK one last time!