Normally, two teams at the bottom of an MLS conference by this time in September have a broadly similar pattern of results. Instead, D.C. United enters tonight’s game on a three-game winning streak and has shown signs of real progress. Orlando City, as a contrast, doesn’t even have three wins since the start of May. A win would get the Black-and-Red out of last place for the first time in months, and with a little help elsewhere, United could end the weekend within 5 points of a playoff spot.
Key player: Zoltan Stieber
A couple of weeks ago, United fans finally got a look at the Hungarian attacking midfielder who chose the Black-and-Red over mooted interest from the Netherlands, and Stieber made a great first impression. Stieber’s soccer IQ appeared to be through the roof, and his technical ability drew cheers multiple times from an appreciative crowd at RFK.
Tonight against Orlando, United will be looking for more of the same. OCSC’s defense has struggled for months, while D.C. had their most dangerous display in months the last time out. If Stieber can build on what we saw against the Revs, United as a team should be able to create plenty of chances out against the Lions.
Location: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Bill Hamid; Sean Franklin, Steve Birnbaum, Kofi Opare, Nick DeLeon; Russell Canouse, Ian Harkes; Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta, Zoltan Stieber; Patrick Mullins
Bench: Steve Clark, Jalen Robinson, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Chris Korb, Marcelo Sarvas, Lloyd Sam, Deshorn Brown
Why three defenders? The only healthy players who aren’t away on loan that this lineup leaves out are Jared Jeffrey and Eric Klenofsky, and Ben Olsen is likely to bring in a fullback and move DeLeon up the wing if he needs to make a change to his attack beyond bringing in Sam and/or Brown.
Elsewhere, Birnbaum cleared concussion protocol during the international break. While Robinson has certainly earned further starts, it seems like Olsen will bring his captain back in straight away.
Projected Orlando starting 11: (4312) - Joe Bendik; Steve Sutter, Jonathan Spector, Leo Pereira, Donny Toia; Dillon Powers, Antonio Nocerino, Yoshimar Yotun; Kaka; Dom Dwyer, Cyle Larin
Spector traveled up with the Lions, but it remains uncertain as to whether he is fit to start or not. If he can’t go, look for Tommy Redding to take his place. The question of whether Powers or Giles Barnes will start in the midfield is another one to watch out for, as it will signal whether Kreis prefers a slower tempo (Powers) or higher tempo (Barnes). Finally, up front, do not be shocked if Carlos Rivas starts over one of the two bigger-name strikers.
Referee: Dave Gantar
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?: So far, we’ve talked over a confusing Orlando team on Filibuster, and checked in with The Mane Land for thoughts from their side of things. Today, we took a deeper look at Orlando’s lineup, and made our score predictions.
What are you drinking?: It’s looking like a beautiful night, so I’m hoping to arrive in time to enjoy a beer in Lot 8 before heading into RFK.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos continued astounding turnaround!