D.C. United heads north today to face the Montreal Impact just as both teams are coming to a breaking point in their 2017 seasons. Both suffered frustrating mid-week cup losses to old foes after having opened the scoring, and both sit 6 points short of a playoff spot at the moment. The mood around both clubs is turning negative, and if there’s a loser today, that side will be alone at the bottom of the East.
Key player: Ian Harkes
United has really struggled to break the Impact down since Mauro Biello took charge, mainly because they haven’t been able to unlock central midfield. The Impact, missing so much on the attacking side of the ball, will surely focus on staying strong up the middle and continuing to frustrate the Black-and-Red.
Much of the attention will fall on Luciano Acosta and Patrick Nyarko to break Montreal down, but it can’t just be one or two players. United will need better and more incisive movement off the ball, and the ability to play one- or two-touch soccer in central areas. That’s where Harkes comes in. If he remains unpredictable for the Impact, and keeps making himself available as an option, United can pry that Montreal defense open in central spots. Once that happens, Acosta and Nyarko will have far better opportunities to expose the back line and create real chances.
Location: Stade Saputo (Montreal, Canada)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Travis Worra; Chris Korb, Steve Birnbaum, Kofi Opare, Taylor Kemp; Jared Jeffrey, Ian Harkes; Lloyd Sam, Luciano Acosta, Patrick Nyarko; Lamar Neagle
Bench: Eric Klenofsky, Marcelo Sarvas, Julian Buescher, Sebastien Le Toux, Deshorn Brown, Jose Ortiz, and either Sean Franklin or Jalen Robinson
Ben Olsen will likely lean towards Korb over Odoi-Atsem at right back, while the rest of the back four is fresh. Jeffrey might have gone 90 on Wednesday, but he still seems more likely to start than Marcelo. Elsewhere, Instagram posts indicate that Sam made the trip, and United will need his invention to help Acosta and Nyarko. I suspect Neagle will start up front, but Olsen will probably look go get Brown 35+ minutes in this one. If things get desperate late, we might see Brown wide left with Ortiz up top.
Projected Montreal starting 11: (433) - Evan Bush; Hassoun Camara, Victor Cabrera, Laurent Ciman, Chris Duvall; Hernan Bernardello, Marco Donadel, Blerim Dzemaili; Dominic Oduro, Matteo Mancosu, Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla
The Impact are short quite a few noteworthy players. Ignacio Piatti is injured, while Anthony Jackson-Hamel is away with Canada for the Gold Cup. That pair has 13 of Montreal’s 24 goals on the season, with Piatti arguably the single hardest to replace player in all of MLS not named David Villa. Patrice Bernier is with Canada as well, while elite left back Ambroise Oyongo is out for the season with a knee injury.
Nonetheless, Ciman is a member of the Belgian national team, while both Mancosu and Dzemaili are Serie A veterans who are clearly among the smarter players in MLS. Tabla adds a spark, while Oduro is possibly still MLS’s fastest player.
Referee: Jorge Gonzalez
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. In Canada, the game will be on TVA Sports (French) and TSN 5.
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?: Filibuster, in the process of covering every game in existence this week, talked about this game too. Our predictions were not entirely pessimistic, and we also looked further into the Montreal lineup with Opposition 11.
What are you drinking?: I just picked up Goose Island’s Summertime Kolsch, and barring a change of heart I’m going that route at kickoff.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos staying out of last place!