After an embarrassing, infuriating week, D.C. United has had a few days to get their act together ahead of tonight’s game against Minnesota United FC. The expansion team from the Land of 10,000 Lakes has had a rough go of it in their first-ever MLS season, currently sitting just one point ahead of the Black-and-Red, who are (as you well know) in dead last. Both teams aren’t going anywhere this season, but the incentive to not be the absolute worst is still...well, it’s something.
It might feel foolish to hope, but Minnesota is struggling for a reason. The Loons are on a five-game winless streak, and they’re on a 351 minute scoreless run (that’s 9 minutes short of four full games). Adrian Heath could potentially be without as many as 13 players, including as many as 6 starters. And if you believe in omens, United has somehow managed to win twice against Atlanta United this season, continuing a history of near-total dominance against expansion clubs.
If there’s a team in MLS the Black-and-Red are capable of beating right now, it’s MNUFC.
Key player: Luciano Acosta
Lucho’s frustration with this season has been growing more obvious as the summer has gone on. He’s calling his own number more often, trying to force things on the dribble or play killer through balls every time. Adding Brown has perhaps given him some reason to stay in touch with how he should actually play, but it’s hard to be a good player on a bad team.
Tonight, against a very soft Minnesota defense that has little ability to slow teams down through the midfield, Acosta needs to involve his teammates more. This will make things easier on him, as United will be less predictable and he’ll have more space to do the eye-catching stuff that makes him such a threat. The Loons will want him to remain stuck playing as an individualist, where they’ll likely kick him whenever possible and wait for him to get angry and lose his way.
Location: TCF Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, MN)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Bill Hamid; Sean Franklin, Steve Birnbaum, Kofi Opare, Taylor Kemp; Jared Jeffrey, Ian Harkes; Lloyd Sam, Luciano Acosta, Patrick Nyarko; Deshorn Brown
Bench: Travis Worra, Bobby Boswell, Nick DeLeon, Marcelo Sarvas, Sebastien Le Toux, Lamar Neagle, Patrick Mullins
I’d love to list DeLeon in the starting lineup, but though he played well last week in a lost cause, the fact is that he was completely gassed by the 75th minute. Hopefully, Ben Olsen will have the luxury of subbing him in for Franklin at halftime as he builds his fitness up. It was plain to see how much United has missed him during his cameo against the Dynamo.
Elsewhere, Nyarko is listed as questionable due to an eye injury after getting elbowed in the face last week (naturally in this doomed season, this red card-worthy offense was not even called as a foul). If he couldn’t make the trip, look for Neagle to get the start and Chris Korb to be on the bench. Why one more defender and not Julian Buescher? Just reading the patterns of Olsen’s gameday squads this year.
Mullins is still questionable, but hopefully he is fit enough to be on the plane (which leaves today, because even the weather hates D.C. United this year). I’m intrigued at the prospect of him playing as the #9 and Brown playing on the left wing, where he scored the bulk of his goals for Colorado in a similar formation.
Projected Minnesota starting 11: (4231) - Bobby Shuttleworth; Jerome Thiesson, Jermaine Taylor, Francisco Calvo, Ismaila Jome; Sam Cronin, Ibson; Miguel Ibarra/Abu Danladi, Kevin Molino, Sam Nicholson; Christian Ramirez
The Loons are missing two starting defenders. Center back Brent Kallman (whose sister, Kassey, plays for the Washington Spirit) is suspended, while Marc Burch is out due to a sports hernia. They’ve lost some defensive depth too, with Joe Greenspan and Kevin Venegas both out injured.
Calvo and Taylor are back from the Gold Cup, though, giving Heath two experienced players back to mitigate the injury crisis. Jome will probably be favored over Justin Davis at left back as Heath will never back off an attacking approach.
Elsewhere, numerous potential starters - Cronin, Ibarra, Danladi, Molino, and Johan Venegas - are all listed as questionable. Molino will probably start, while Cronin could end up being replaced by Collen Warner or United homegrown product Collin Martin (who played a deep role in last week’s 3-0 loss to the Red Bulls).
Referee: Robert Sibiga
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: For reasons that utterly defy explanation, this is MLS Live’s Free Match of the Week. I am not making this up.
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: Our predictions are “optimistic” in that not everyone predicted a loss. Check back in a few hours for Opposition 11.
What are you drinking?: We’re barely past the halfway point of this season, and I’ve already written an article about how a playoff spot is virtually impossible. Pass the bourbon. I’ve got Evan Williams Single Barrel on hand.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos avoiding further indignity!