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DC United vs Inter Miami Game Preview


Predicted Lineups: 

DC United 

Starters: (4-1-2-1-2) - Alex Bono, Aaron Herrera, Lucas Bartlett, Christopher McVey, Jared Stroud, Pedro Santos, Matti Peltola, Mateusz Klich, Gabriel Pirani, Cristian Dájome, Christian Benteke

Subs: Luis Zamudio, Matai Akinmboni, Conner Antley, Martín Rodríguez, Jackson Hopkins, Kristian Fletcher, Jacob Murrell 

Captain: Christian Benteke


Injury Report:

Out

  • Steven Birnbaum

  • Tyler Miller 

  • Ted Ku-DiPietro

Questionable

  • Mohanad Jeahze

  • Garrison Tubbs 

  • Russell Canouse


Inter Miami 

Starters:  Drake Callender, Jordo Alba, Tomás Avilés, Sergii Kryvtsov, Nicolás Freire, Julian Gressel, Federico Redondo, Diego Gómez, Sergio Busquets, Robert Taylor, Leonardo Campana


Subs:  Carlos Dos Santos, Ryan Sailor, Noah Allen, Edison Azcona,  Shanyder Borgelin, David Ruiz,  Luis Suarez

Formation (5-3-2)

Injury Report:

Out

  • Lionel Messi

  • Benjamin Cremaschi

  • Facundo Farias

  • Robbie Robinson 

Questionable




The Managers: 


DC United - Troy Lesesne - The New DC United Head Coach makes his debut on the sidelines after serving a one game ban for picking up two yellow cards in the playoff match versus FC Cincinnati when he was the interim Head Coach of the New York Red Bulls last season. A young energetic Head Coach who helped to establish and led New Mexico United in the USL Championship. Between his time with Red Bulls and New Mexico United, Lesesne has used tactical ideas that are similar to Jim Curtin in Philadelphia and Pat Noonan in Cincinnati.



Inter Miami - Tata Martino


Inter Miami CF hired Tata Martino as their Head Coach when it was obvious that Lionel Messi was going to join the team.  This is Tata’s second stint in MLS, having had great success when he shepherded the expansion team Atlanta United into existence. He’s the perfect Head Coach for a team with Lionel Messi, who he coached while the Manager for Barcelona. He has coached both in Europe and MLS, while also being the Head Coach of the Argentinian and Mexican National teams.


He knows enough to let his Barcelona Four cook on the field, and can coach up the rest of Miami’s players to make them a dangerous team who will emulate Barcelona’s signature controlled possession style of play.


Summary: 


This Saturday afternoon, DC United plays host to Inter Miami who currently sit atop of the MLS Eastern Conference standings. Inter Miami have been strong these first three weeks of the MLS season, but they have also played a lot of games in a short span of time, and now Tata Martino's side will be in action without their biggest star, as the team announced that Lionel Messi would miss the DC United match. The Argentine Superstar picked up a knock during the team's win over Nashville and had to be taken off the field during the second half. Despite the loss of the current best player in the world, Inter Miami has some of the most exceptional quality players in their ranks, the likes of which has been rarely seen in MLS, and they will fancy their chances as they take on the Black & Red. 


On the other hand, United are returning home from what is largely seen as a very successful two games road trip. The Black & Red will have Christian Benteke back, and with Mateusz Klich playing inspired ball, DC should give Miami all they ca ask for.


Audi field is set for a high-voltage encounter between two of the better teams in this early stage of the season.


Keys to the Match: 


Who plays for Inter Miami? 

Lionel Messi had a goal and an assist in his return to Inter Miami's lineup Wednesday night, leading the way in a 3-1 win over Nashville in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions Cup round-of-16 matchup. Unfortunately for Inter Miami the Argentine megastar was subbed off in the 50th minute of the game. Now it’s pretty much confirmed that Lionel Messi will not play, having strained his hamstring. Miami’s record since Messi joined them is less than stellar.


With Messi out, the question of how much playing time does Luis Suárez get. At his best, the Uruguayan Striker is a versatile attacker renowned for his consistent goal-scoring ability.  After a slow start in Inter Miami’s first two games Suárez has again showed that he is still excellent at receiving the ball, making perfectly timed runs, attacking crosses and anticipating rebounds. Unfortunately Father Time is catching up with the Uruguayan Superstar, and while he has shown in recent games he is an extremely dangerous player in the penalty area Inter Miami has played a lot of games in this early stage of the season, and Tati could decide to manage his minutes too.


Inter Miami still has a loaded roster, with the likes of Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Julian Gressel,  Leonardo Campana and U.S. National Team goalie Drake Callender. They also have one of the best Managers in MLS history working the sideline, so the Heron’s are anything but a pushover. Still without Lionel Messi and limited minutes from Luis Suárez, the chances of DC United getting a result definitely improve.


How effective will Christian Benteke be?

Christian Benteke started the season on fire with a hat trick in United’s season opener, but missed the next two games due a groin injury. He is expected back in the starting lineup against Inter Miami, which greatly improves United’s chances of scoring. 


The one vulnerability that Miami has shown is their back line can be scored upon, and could have trouble dealing with the towering Belgian Striker. Look for United to put some long balls direct to Benteke, especially in quick counter attack situations where the Heron’s defense isn’t set.


Can DC United make Audi Field a fortress?

Last season under head coach Wayne Rooney, the Black & Red were never able to make Audi field a true home-field advantage. Moments of hesitation or loss of concentration often led to early leads becoming ties or worse losses. The opening game versus the New England revolution was a good start for DC United to make Audi field their fortress. Today’s match versus Inter Miami should have the energy and excitement that the team can feed off of. If they can again play like they did for the home opener, then this new DC United team can set the tone for their home matches and make Audi field a place that teams fear to play. 


Can DC take advantage of Miami? Inter Miami have been up and down in their last few matches. They thoroughly humiliated Orlando City, before getting a draw against Nashville in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions Cup round-of-16 matchup, they then took their first loss of the season against Montréal, before thoroughly dominating Nashville in the second leg of their Champions Cup draw. That is a lot of minutes played over a very short period of time. United has shown that they are ready and willing to run at teams with tired legs. If the Black & Red can press with intensity and take it at Miami’s players, they should be able to force mistakes.


Things to Watch: 


Offense - The offense will welcome back Christian Benteke. His hold up play, and his ability to link up with teammates will be 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. 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 Mateusz Klich and Cristian Dájome.


The loss of Ted Ku-DiPietro to a knock is a blow, as he’s been such a dynamic threat with the ball and been able to transition the team from defense to offense with line-breaking dribbles. Without KDP last week in Cincinnati,  Mateusz Klich was more willing to play forward and take shots on goal. With the return of Benteke, there should be even better opportunities for Klich to shoot on goal.


It’s not yet known which player will step up and fill the role Ted KDP plays for United. Pirani technically should be that player, but during the first three weeks of the season his play on the field has been forgettable. The Black & Red really need Pirani to play to his potential.


On the other side of the field is Stroud, who is listed as the Right Wing, but often attacks up the middle and ceding the wide right to Aaron Herrera, who has repeatedly demonstrated his ability to cross the ball and provide scoring opportunities, having picked up two assists in three games. If Stroud can duplicate the effort he showed in the first game, DC will have a great chance of picking up the win. 


The other player who has the opportunity to step up is Jackson Hopkins. The young Homegrown has had a decent start to the season, but could use this opportunity to make his mark. Hopkins has the confidence to shoot, and take on defenders. Now if he can clean up his passing and off-ball movement, he could really push to continue starting.


Off the bench, United will again have its young guns in Kristen Fletcher and Jacob Murrell. Both have shown that they have some of the smoother shots on the team, and given half a chance will shoot with confidence.



Defense - After three matches DC United’s completely new defense can be described as tenacious, scrappy, dogged. What they cannot be described as is weak. It starts with Alex Bono who is coming off of a Man of the Match performance, In Cincinnati he continued to demonstrate he is one of the better Goalkeepers in the league at making stops. Bono continues to be calm and collected in his box, making a number of impressive saves and a willingness to be vocal and control his area. 


The new Center Backs have shown well in all three games played. Both Lucas Bartlett and Christopher McVey have partnered well with each other, with their strengths complimenting the others. Both handled the pace offered by New England and the Portland Timbers, and though a bit more hard pressed against FC Cincinnati. did a good enough job to help Bono earn his first clean sheet of 2024.


The leader of the defense is quickly becoming Aaron Herrera. He sets the tone both on the defensive half and in pushing forward into the attack. There continues to be a noticeable improvement by DC United’s defenders to move the ball upfield more frequently through long passes, which is in large part been thanks to Aaron Herrera, who sets the tone with his precision passing. Both Bartlett and McVey have also shown they are quite capable of breaking lines with their passing. 


The Left Back spot continues to be an absolute enigma. Pedro Santos continues to show he is a good soccer player even though he’s 35 years old. He has all the tools to be a good defender when the team is back in a low line, and his ability to play long passes into United’s offense may be better than Herrera’s. It’s just in the open field where Pedro Santos is lacking. He just doesn’t handle speedy attackers when there is a lot of space. 


Central Defensive Midfielder Matti Peltola has shown he could easily be the team’s MVP. The young DP may never get the accolades that other young players get, but that is only because he’s primarily a defensive player. In both games Peltola has shown he is worthy of being a young Designated Player. In Portland he again demonstrated great awareness of where to be on the field and intercept a number of passes and opponents trying to dribble through the middle of the field. Playing with Mateusz Klich, the two have made the middle of the field a difficult place to start the attack, which will be necessary again when playing against Inter Miami’s stellar cast.


Through the first three games of this young season, all of the newly acquired defenders have proven themselves to be quality players which allows Head Coach Troy Lesesne to utilize his form of pressing defense. In the first two games of their season, Inter Miami showed some vulnerability to the press, so it will be interesting to see how these two teams match up Saturday afternoon. It should be an a very entertaining game for the fans..



By the Numbers 


Inter Miami’s key players 

  • Inter Miami Luis Suarez has 2 goals and 3 assists in MLS play.

  • Lionel Messi has 2 goals and 1 assist.

  • Julian Gressel has no goals, and 2 assists.

  • Robert Taylor has 2 goals.

DC United key players 

  • Christian Benteke has 3 goals 

  • Mateusz Klich has a goal 

  • Kristen Fletcher has a goal 

  • Aaron Herrera has two assists

  • Pedro Santos has an assist 

  • Connor Antley has an assist



Predictions:


Richard - 2-1 victory. It will be difficult for DC United to keep a clean sheet, especially if Suárez gets any minutes, but I see United being up for a home match, especially against the darlings of MLS, and take advantage of a Messi-less Inter Miami.



Coverage: Free on Apple TV 

Pregame 1:45 Pm 


Written by: RJ Rolsen 














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