Two teams that are trying to figure some things out meet tonight as D.C. United hosts the San Jose Earthquakes. United, after winning three straight 1-0 games following the transfer window’s close, has suffered two straight losses that were as deflating as they were self-inflicted. The Quakes, despite currently holding a playoff spot, have been dreadful on the road under head coach Chris Leitch. How dreadful? In their last seven road games, San Jose has conceded 23 times, including six different games in which they gave up three or more goals.
Key player: Ian Harkes
While his own goal last week is what got all of the attention, there were some positives for Harkes on his long-awaited return to action. Harkes ended up making 20 more passes in a game where, unusually, the Black-and-Red held a major advantage in possession. Yes, falling behind during the first half tends to influence that, but this is D.C. United we’re talking about here. It’s been a while since this team had that much of the ball in a league match.
That’s a big part of what Harkes does best. He’s the connective tissue of the midfield, and that means receiving and moving the ball dependably and frequently. Against a San Jose team that will likely have two holding midfielders and will be looking to figure out how to not bleed goals on the road, Harkes needs to help United move the ball fluently through that San Jose midfield so that United gets the scoring chances they need (and they probably need quite a few, if we’re being honest) to get back to winning ways.
Location: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Bill Hamid; Chris Odoi-Atsem, Steve Birnbaum, Jalen Robinson, Nick DeLeon; Russell Canouse, Ian Harkes; Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta, Zoltan Stieber; Patrick Mullins
Bench: Steve Clark, Kofi Opare, Sean Franklin, Marcelo Sarvas, Lloyd Sam, Bruno Miranda, Deshorn Brown
Ben Olsen said to expect some younger players to get their shot, and in this case that means Robinson gets the start, while Odoi-Atsem retains his spot despite Franklin coming back from suspension. Elsewhere, look for Miranda to get more than just a small cameo off the bench.
Projected Quakes starting 11: (442) - Andrew Tarbell; Kofi Sarkodie, Francois Affolter, Florian Jungwirth, Shea Salinas; Danny Hoesen, Anibal Godoy, Jackson Yueill, Vako; Chris Wondolowski, Marco Ureña
There’s a lot of guesswork here. The Quakes, for example, have played five different players at center back in the last three games, and before that they had spent a while playing out of a 352. Hoesen could end up on the bench behind Tommy Thompson, and Godoy could be dropped for Darwin Ceren or Andres Imperiale (with Jungwirth moving up into the midfield).
Referee: Marcos DeOliveira
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?: Filibuster talked about the still-finding-themselves Quakes, while we’re hoping Robinson really does get the start, and had a chat with Harkes as he looks to get back on track. Predictions for this one will be coming up later this morning.
What are you drinking?: I’m aiming to roam Lot 8 early given the few moments we all have left in our wonderful parking lot/lawless hinterland. I’ll probably have an iced coffee in hand when I arrive, but I suspect a beer will replace it once it’s empty.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos RFK, the only good stadium!