Things haven't been going that well for the New England Revolution lately, and this may be a pretty good time for D.C. United to be hosting them. Yes, the Revs won their last league match, but they hadn't won the previous six; said win came over the bottom-of-the-table Chicago Fire. New England followed that up by losing to the Charlotte Independence of the USL in the US Open Cup despite hosting the match and giving 90 minutes to players like Kelyn Rowe and Diego Fagundez.
New England has also been a pretty bad road team in 2015. 2W-1D-4L is the same record that United has as the away team, but the Revs have given up 14 goals in those 7 games. With Jermaine Jones weeks away from being available after abdominal surgery and weather that's going to make chasing the game very difficult, today's game seems to set up well for United.
Still, this is a very good Revolution team, and nearly every regular starter played under 30 minutes against Charlotte on Wednesday. That makes it easy to predict their starters:
Bobby Shuttleworth will start in goal, and there should be few surprises in the back four. Andrew Farrell, Jose Goncalves, and Chris Tierney didn't play in the Open Cup game, so they'll definitely start. London Woodberry went 90 minutes against the Independence, but so did every other healthy candidate to play right back. Given how short the Revs are defensively, I think we'll see Woodberry have to tough it out.
In the midfield, Scott Caldwell only played 18 minutes while Andy Dorman was not involved in the game, so they'll start. Dorman is the replacement for Jones, and while he lacks the USMNT stalwart's passing range and game-changing dynamism, he's still a physical, aggressive player. It used to be that he was the late runner into the box for New England, but these days they've actually been letting Caldwell make those runs from deep. It's paying off; Caldwell actually has more goals than Lee Nguyen right now.
Speaking of Nguyen, he'll take his usual role as the #10 even though his indifferent 2015 form might see him challenged for playing time if things don't turn around. It won't happen today because the primary challengers - Rowe, Fagundez, Daigo Kobayashi, and Steve Neumann - all went at least 87 minutes Wednesday. Nonetheless, United needs to make sure this isn't the game that gets him back on track.
On the flanks, Teal Bunbury should be fresh having not played in the USOC, while Juan Agudelo only saw 26 minutes of action off the bench. They're going to be a problem given that Sean Franklin appears doubtful. Taylor Kemp's struggles against big, powerful wingers are well-known, and that's what Bunbury brings to the table. Prepare to see the Revs aim his way regularly, which in turn means danger on crosses to the back post for Chris Korb tracking Agudelo.
Up front, Charlie Davies is New England's top scorer with 6 goals. However, 4 of those came in a late April-early May streak of four straight games with a goal. Since then, he's got 2 from 6 games, and as he started 5 of those games a rotation up front isn't to blame. With Nguyen short of his best and Jones unavailable, there's a suspicion that the Revs will go as far as Davies can carry them today. If his runs force United to drop back, the midfield will have more space. Without that extra room, however, it seems likely that United will be able to neutralize the 5v4 advantage they've become accustomed to facing.
Off the bench, Heaps has plenty of options. Fagundez is making a big push for more time recently after making little impact on the season. He could slot into any of the three attacking midfield roles, though my guess is that it will be for Agudelo on the left (or for Davies, with Agudelo moving up front). Rowe will also come on in one of those spots despite his mid-week exertions, though where he plays will probably depend on the scoreboard. Heaps may be forced to use a sub - Kevin Alston most likely - around the hour mark for Woodberry given the heat and humidity, but if he can avoid it he will. If the Revs have one more sub left and want to protect their lead, look for someone like Kobayashi to come in for Nguyen in an effort to get more possession and force United to chase the ball.