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Game Preview - DC United vs New England


The Opponent: New England Revolution (0-0-0)


Predicted Lineups: 

DC United 

Potential Starters: (3-4-1-2) - Alex Bono, Aaron Herrera, Lucas Bartlett, Christopher McVey, Jared Stroud, Matti Peltola, Mateusz Klich, Pedro Santos, Gabriel Pirani, Ted Ku-DiPietro, Christian Benteke

Subs: Luis Zamudio, Matai Akinmboni, Conner Antley, Jackson Hopkins,, Martín Rodríguez, Cristian Dájome, Kristian Fletcher

Captain: Christian Benteke


Injury Report:

Out

  • Steven Birnbaum (left knee)

  • Russell Canouse (right ankle)

  • Garrison Tubbs (right thigh)

  • Jacob Murrell (right thigh)

  • Tyler Miller (right shoulder)

Questionable

  • None



New England Revolution 

Potential Starters: (4-2-3-1) - Henrich Ravas, Nick Lima, Andrew Farrell, Dave Romney, DeJuan Jones; Ian Harkes, Matt Polster, Carles Gil, Nacho Gil, Tomas Chancalay, Giacomo Vrioni.

Subs: Jacob Jackson, Henry Kessler, Jonathan Mensah, Noel Buck, Emmanuel Boateng, Justin Rennicks, Bobby Wood, Tommy McNamara, Damián Rivera, Esmir Bajraktarevic

Captain: Carles Gil


Injury Report:

Out

  • Brandon Bye

  • Dylan Borrero

  • Jack Panayotou

  • Mark-Anthony Kaye (suspended)

Questionable 

  • Henry Kessler

  • Ian Harkes



The Managers: 

DC United - Assistant Coach Zach Prince  - New DC United Head Coach Lesesne was the interim Head Coach of the New York Red Bulls last season, and he received a red card in the playoff match versus FC Cincinnati, and so will not make his Audi Field debut with DC this week.


New England Revolution - Caleb Porter -  Like DC, the Revs have a new Head Coach, though the  Revolution went a completely different direction in Caleb Porter, a two-time MLS Cup winner. The Revolution feel they have a window of opportunity, with a lot of the components that produced the best regular season in MLS history in 2021. From his time in Portland and Columbus we know that Porter will look to find a balance between the Rev’s offense and defense in his tactics. Expect the Revolution to set up in the classic 4-2-3-1 so it can best utilize Carles Gil’s talent as a natural 10. Porter likes to run his offense through an Attacking Midfielder, and he has one of the best in MLS.


Summary: 


The Black & Red take on the New England Revolution this weekend at Audi Field. This is the opening weekend for both teams, though New England are coming off securing a first-leg victory over Panamanian team Independiente de la Chorrera in the CONCACAF Champions Cup. It is also the start of a new era for both teams as new coaching staffs will begin their Major League Soccer journeys. Both will be hoping to set the narrative for the season. The Revolution, who are in win now mode, will want to show they are in the mix with Columbus Crew, FC Cincinnati and Inter Miami to compete for titles. DC United will want to show they are back on the path of respectability.

United have more to prove and the furthest to go. The Black & Red were 10-14-10 overall in the 2023 season while going 6-5-6 at home, and again just missed the playoffs. Part of the reason was United scored just 45 goals while they allowed opponents to score 49.


On the other hand, the New England Revolution finished 15-9-10 overall. This had the Revs ending last season 5th in the East. The Revolution scored 58 goals a season ago, averaging 1.7 per game, with a +12 goal differential. What might give United supporters hope is that the Revs were only 3-9-6 on the road in the 2023 season. On top of this is the fact that the Revs played in Panama against Independiente de la Chorrera in the CONCACAF Champions Cup on Wednesday, and then had to travel back, before going on the road again. United could benefit from some tired legs.


Keys to the Match: 


Can DC’s Defense solidify? 

It will be a completely new defense that takes the field for the opening match. Holdovers Steve Birnbaum and Russell Canouse are out injured, so it will be a completely different lineup than the team that ended last season. United allowed its opponents to score 49 times, often late in games. Reducing the number of goals conceded seems to have been a priority for General Manager Mackay, as he brought in almost an entire new backline. Against the Revolution , the one starting holdover from 2023, Mohanad Jeahze, only played a couple of matches at the beginning of the season before a series of unfortunate events derailed his season.


Because the preseason was played without any broadcast, it’s uncertain what lineup Head Coach Lesesne and Assistant Coach Zach Princ will utilize. Based solely on the players that are available, and an obvious effort to be stronger in the back, there’s a good chance that the Black & Red will use a back three that becomes a back five, with new Young Designated Player, Matti Peltola, providing cover for the back line as a number six Central Defensive Midfielder.

If the team does go with the back three, newly acquired Aaron Herrera and Christopher McVey will most likely bookend another newly acquired Center Back in Lucas Bartlett. Hernandez, McVey, and Peltola all are quite good at the long pas, so expect more long passing than was utilized in 2023.


Can DC United make Audi Field their fortress?

As much as we hoped it would happen, Wayne Rooney was never able to create a discernible home field advantage in 2023. United was only able to achieve a very mundane 6-5-6 at home. That type of record has a team miss the playoffs by a couple of points and not even be in contention on decision day.

Creating a true home field advantage will go a long way to improving DC United’s image within the league and improve their chances of going to the playoffs. A greater focus on defense and a less risky tactical strategy will help. 

Unfortunately, due to some troubling decision making by the team’s ownership, there will not be the usual raucous crowd in the supporters section. The preseason tour in Saudi Arabia did not go over well, and supporters want DC United’s leadership to know that they do not want to be a part of sports washing. 


What will DC face in the Revolution’s attack?

We know little about how Porter is going to have the Revolution play, as like DC none of the New England’s preseason games were broadcast, and they went 0-4-1, outscored by opponents, 13-3. We did see New England play in Panama on Wednesday, and we know Porter’s preferred style of play from Columbus and Portland. 


Yet the Revolution did have to play on Wednesday and travel back to the States, so there is a question about how this will affect their strategy going into this game. The Rev’s main star, Carles Gil was able to sub off during the Cup match, so should be able to play the majority of the game. If he is able to go most of the game, the Revolution will have one of their most dangerous weapons on the field who could cause the DC defense a lot of problems.

From the left wing DC will also have to deal with Tomas Chancalay, who the Revolution brought on as a loan last summer, and made permanent this offseason. He scored 6 goals in 11 matches to end the 2023 season, and scored again on Wednesday in Panama. He and Gil are becoming quite the one-two punch. Depending how affected they are by the travel will determine just how dangerous these attackers are Saturday night.



Things to Watch: 

Offense - The Black and Red’s offense had moments last season but also had patches where the team just couldn’t put the ball in the net. Both Designated Players Mateusz Klich and striker Christian Benteke are back and should provide scoring opportunities. Ted Ku-DiPietro showed he can hold his own last season, and was a great partner for Benteke as a false nine. Gabriel Pirani will play just under them and look to partner with Mateusz Klich to transition the ball forward off of turnovers quickly into potential scoring opportunities.

The team still awaits a consistent third scorer. Jared Stroud could provide some scoring punch from the wings, he did score five goals and add five assists in St. Louis last season. Off the bench will be notable teenager Kristen Fletcher who had a very successful spell in Wales, playing for the Swansea Under 21’s, where he showed a strong nose for the goal.

Additional players off the bench will be Pedro Santos, Martín Rodríguez, and Cristian Dájome who each can bring some offensive punch. The biggest mystery here will be Rodríguez, who missed all of last season. He did show flashes in the 2022 season especially with his crosses. With Jared Stroud and Mohanad Jeahze starting and Rodríguez and Santos

coming off the bench, expect the team to continue to cross the ball often into the box, and challenge Benteke to put the ball on goal.  


Defense - DC United have a completely new defense this season so there are going to be growing pains. Alex Bono returns and has the ability to be stout in the back. Expect him to be vocal in directing his backline. In a recent interview he commented that he prefers a back three with his Center Backs, which is another clue to how this defense will organize. 


Expect the defenders to clear the ball long more frequently than was done in 2023. A number of the newly acquired defenders are quite proficient in accurate long passes. This is especially true for new Central Defensive Midfielder Matti Peltola who has shown pinpoint accuracy in the past with his passing. Where Peltola will be challenged is that his first MLS match will be against one of the best Attacking Midfielders in MLS. Carles Gil will be quite the baptism by fire.

With New Mexico United and of course with the New York Red Bulls, Head Coach Troy Lesesne utilized a pressing defense. We can expect the Black & Red to make use of a press too, but how and how often are to be discovered.




Predictions:


Richard - 1-1 draw. It will be difficult for DC United to keep a clean sheet while scoring against the Revolution will also prove challenging. In the end I believe both teams pick up a point.



Coverage: Apple TV - Free

Pregame 7:15p 

Listen on…

📻: 1190am, 101.1HD2, 104.7fm

💻: iHeartSportsDC

🔊: Any Smart Speaker 

📱: @iHeartRadio App


Written by: RJ Rolsen 






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