Updated: Jul 8
Starter: Tyler Miller, Brendan Hines-Ike, Derrick Williams, Donovan Pines, Ruan, Chris Durkin, Russell Canouse, Andy Najar, Lewis O’Brien, Christian Benteke, Taxiarchis Fountas
Subs: Alex Bono, Victor Pálsson, Yamil Asad, Kristen Fletcher, Ruan, Eric Hurtado, Cristian Dájome, Nigel Robertha
Captain: Christian Benteke
Martin Rodriguez (knee)
Mohanad Jeahze (ankle)
Ted Ku-DiPietro (ankle)
Jacob Greene (hip)
Pedro Santos (thigh)
Mateusz Klich (yellow card accumulation)
Starters: Drake Callender; Ian Fray, Sergii Kryvtsov, Noah Allen, Negri, Benjamin Cremaschi, David Ruiz, Dixon Arroyo, Robert Taylor, Nicolás Stefanelli, Leonardo Campana
Subs: Carlos Dos Santos, Christopher McVey, Edison Azcona, Shanyder Borgelin, Harvey Neville, Jake LaCava, Lawson Sunderland, Josef Martínez
Jean Mota (ligament)
Franco Negri (cruciate ligament)
Corentin Jean (cruciate ligament)
Robbie Robinson (hamstring)
Ryan Sailor (hamstring)
DC United - Wayne Rooney
DC’s Gaffer has improved the play on the field, even as the results on the field have been less than satisfactory. He has improved the sense of camaraderie and teamwork, but it has been put to the test with this recent dip in form. Rooney’s preference is to promote the idea of his players playing with courage and on the front foot, yet at the same time patience and calmness on the ball, so they can maintain control of the game.
The other aspect of Rooney’s coaching style is to be pragmatic as a coach and shape his strategy around the strengths of his players, while putting in place tactics designed to mitigate their weaknesses. There are some obvious issues that have cropped up in this downturn in form, it will be a good test of Rooney’s managerial improvement to see how he handles it.
Inter Miami - Tata Martino/Javier Morales
Inter Miami CF has hired Tata Martino as the new Head Coach, but he is not yet been authorized to make his coaching debut. It is expected that Tata will be on the bench and contribute his thoughts, but Thursday was the first day he trained with the team and so he is still in the transitional process.
Javier Morales will continue to lead Inter Miami again as an assistant until Tati fully takes over. Morales has a CV that includes being a professional player, an Academy Coach, and a First Team Assistant Coach. He has been managing a struggling team that has also been dealing with the circus that has been Miami since the announcement that Messi would be joining the club. Despite the poor record Morals has the team continuing to play hard, as evidenced by the 2-2 draw Miami earned midweek against Columbus Crew.
Keys to the Match:
Can DC United make Audi Field a fortress?
United United return to Audi Field on the heels of a 3 point away win at FC Dallas.
Can they do it?
Yes they can, if they play up to their potential, and don't lose focus. The team has improved this season, but they haven’t yet been consistent enough at home. Players have upped their individual performance as the team has shown better coordination and consistency. If the team can avoid dumb lapses in consentration they can be celebrating three points at the final whistle.
Can United get off the roller coaster of results?
The Black & Red have not played with any consistency and the results have shown. The team showed grit and determination against Dallas after playing atrocious against Nashville. The Nashville result came after DC United played one of its best halves of the season against league leaders FC Cincinnati.
With the win in Dallas, United has the opportunity to get some momentum going into the League’s Cup. It won’t be easy, despite being at the bottom of the table, Miami are an energized team who have recorded back-to-back draws in their last two games. Still this is a team that is beatable, and United would do well to get all three points. If they can, they would have momentum going into the final match before the League's Cup, and if they play to their potential, they could enter the home stretch with a chance at a home playoff game.
Can DC take advantage of Miami? Inter Miami may have two draws in their last matches, but they are winless in their last nine, and bottom of the table. This is the type of game the Black & Red have to take advantage of. They won two of three against better opponents so they have the ability to gain three points off of a team that is down and vulnerable, they just need to be focused and play the full 90 minutes, so they don’t give up late points like they did against Montréal.
Miami was dominated on Tuesday by the Columbus Crew but was able to eke out a draw off of a golanzo by Josef Martinez. Against two quality opponents, Inter Miami were able to pick up a point a piece, so it won’t be a cakewalk for the Black & Red. DC, even with the injuries and Klich’s suspension should have what it takes to pick up a win. They just need to play the whole 90 minutes.
Last chance to see Lewis O’Brien at home? It’s increasingly looking like Lewis O’Brien will be heading back to England after next week’s match against the New England Revolution. A number of Premier League clubs have inquired about him, and Nottingham Forest are keen to see if he can make their team. O’Brien has been an amazing player for DC, and it will be good for the fans to cheer him off the pitch, and give him the sending off he deserves.
One note is that Lewis O’Brien is one caution away from suspension and will need to take care during tonight’s match so he can play his final game with the Black & Red next week.
Can DC take advantage of the set piece? The Black & Red have been very dangerous in the set piece. The first goal DC scored against Inter Miami was off a corner kick, when Pines crab walked the ball under the goalie. Set pieces is an area DC continues to be strong in. In a game that should see a few goals, just as in the first game in Miami, it is important that DC takes advantage of set pieces.
Benteke and Pines gives the team two towering players who have shown the ability to put a header on target, while O'Brien is a master at delivering winnable passes.
Things to Watch:
Offense - The offense will welcome back Christian Benteke. His hold up play, and his ability to link up with teammates has been a key ingredient to DC United’s attack this season. When you add Benteke’s finishing, there is an argument that he is the best pure Striker in the MLS this season. Benteke gives DC the ability to go long, and get the ball out from their half of the field. Even when Benteke doesn’t score, his presence forces the defense to pay attention, and can lead to opportunities for others like Taxi and Cristian Dájome.
The loss of Mateusz Klich to yellow card accumulation is a blow, as he’s been such a commanding presence with the ball and been able to transition the team from defense to offense with line-breaking dribbles. Without Klich’s play and the return of Benteke, DC will most likely surrender some control of the ball, and rely on more long passes.
It’s not yet known which player will come in for
Rooney could opt for Cristian Dájome to come in, and have he and Taxi play two number tens just underneath Benteke. This would mean that Canouse would start on the bench and be available to protect a potential lead. That Nigel Robertha is now available alongside Kristen Fletcher makes this option more plausible.
If Rooney goes with a more defensive scheme, look for Canouse to play alongside Chris Durkin in a double pivot, and have Lewis O’Brien play as a more offensive number eight. The trouble with this formation is that Yamil Asad is the only protection off the bench.
Defense - The big question for the Black & Red is who will United start in their defensive formation? DC United kept a clean sheet in Dallas, after giving up two sloppy goals in Nashville. Steve Birnbaum is available for the game after winning 100% of his aerial duels in the last match. If he were to get his form back it would be good news for the defense. Birnbaum had not looked up to it since returning from injury. At the same time Hines-Ike has also had an uneven level of play since returning from his long-term injury.
The team defense could be improved with the return of Victor Pálsson who has been home dealing with a family issue. Pálsson has been instrumental earlier in the season helping the team improve its play and is important in transitioning into the offense. The question is will he be ready to start against Miami or will he be played off the bench in a strategy of bringing him in slowly.
Derrick Williams has shown he is a better defender than he showed last season, and his passing efficiency has really helped United. With Pálsson and Williams, the team can play more long balls from the back, while Pines should make it difficult for teams to get in behind, as his long legs lead to deceptive speed.
Pedro Santos will be out with a knock. Gaoussou Samaké could get the start, but was consistently targeted when United played Real Salt Lake, and was found wanting. Jacob Greene is also out at this time. It could be that Rooney has Andy Najar play on the left and Ruan gets the start on the right. Chris Durkin is also available to play on the right side of the field. Durkin has proven to be both the most flexible player on the roster, and one of the best on ball defenders. His lack of pace can be a weakness, but Pálsson backing him up helps mitigate this, as well as the team's defensive shape.
The way DC United chooses to defend is to be very patient and maintain their positional shape. They will press, but at specific times, when the moment is right.
The United defense needs to have a good match to return to their strong play. This is the type of match that can change a team’s narrative or reinforce the story that the pundits have been pushing. It will be interesting to see which way it goes.
Words of the Gaffer:
“We have to keep believing in the process in which we’re working, and and I think if you look throughout the season, we’ve consistently barely been in a similar position, just on the cusp of the playoffs, just inside the playoff spots.”
“ I think we can push to be maybe be a little bit higher than where we are with the last 12 games of the season.”
“That’s the goal for us firstly, to try and take each game as it comes but we really believe that we’ve got a run of fixtures, especially after the leagues cup, which could really benefit us.”
“This is a huge game for us because a win would put us in a very good place with just one game before the (Leagues Cup) break.
By the Numbers:
DC United have scored 30 goals to rank 8th in MLS
DC United’s 28 goals conceded rank 15th in the league
DC United’s goal differential of +2 is 12th in MLS
Christian Benteke has scored 8 goals and 2 assists
Taxi Fountas has scored 5 goals and 0 assists
Cristian Dájome has scored 2 goals and 1 assist
Donovan Pines has 3 goals
Tyler Miller has kept 6 clean sheets
Inter Miami CF’s 20 goals rank 24th in MLS
Inter Miami CF has allowed 31 goals, ranking 22nd in MLS
Inter Miami CF ranks 26th in MLS in goal differential with -11
Josef Martinez has 6 goals and 1 assist
Campana has 4 goals and 2 assists
Brandon Vazquez has 4 goals and 1 assist
Robert Thomas Taylor has 2 goals and 2 assists
Benjamin Cremaschi has zero goals, but 3 assists
2-0 win over the bottom dwellers.The Black & Red looked really strong against FC Cincinnati and played with true grit on Tuesday in Dallas. Those results will help United get their second win in a row.
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Written by: RJ Rolsen