So what's the strategy for DC United's match against Atlante tonight? Injuries leave us with a short bench and those who've been starting have been logging a lot of miles as of late. Atlante did not appear to be taking this tournament seriously when they got hammered by Houston, but perhaps that drubbing will spark a bit of pride and fight in the Mexican side. At the very least, we can't expect them to be underestimating us.
Job #1 is deciding what priority to place on SuperLiga. As much as I hate to put less than 100% into any competition, MLS roster restrictions and the limited reward probably make SuperLiga a bit SuperFluous. Let's face it, MLS teams at most probably go 15-16 deep, and we're missing, by my count . . . Gallardo, Peralta, Quaranta, Olsen, Mediate, as well as borderline guys in Kirk and Stratford. In addition, Jaime is carrying a knock and we need to get Emilio some rest. Still, there's a $1 million purse on offer, right? Well, not quite. The dark legions of SUM and MLS HQ take the lion's share of that prize money, leaving the club with a pittance for their efforts. Not that money should be the only motivating factor, but it sure skews the risk-reward balance.
Well, I'd go with a calculated gamble and play the strongest lineup available in the first half, with the expectation that some key (or plain tired) cogs will be pulled at the half or early in the second stanza, regardless of how the game is going. Why? Well, for starters, if we can gut Atlante early with a couple of goals, we can afford to pull a few guys off early, and still be in a decent position to advance in the competition, given a result against Houston this weekend. Similarly, if we're not ahead at that point, the cold, icy wind of calculation has to be blowing across the pitch, prompting the cutting of losses for the greater good. The other factor to consider is that, at this point, I'd assume that Peralta, Quaranta, Gallardo, and Kirk are all questionable at best for the weekend, but might be ready to go by next Tuesday.
So what's the "strongest lineup available"? I don't think that Atlante are as strong as Chivas in the middle of the park, but our best attacking lineup, given the injury list, is probably going to be similar to what we rolled out in the second half against Chivas--a 3-4-1-2 with Jaime as the "1" tucked in underneath Doe and Emilio. In fact, I'd go with almost that entire team--Thompson/Cordeiro and Fred wide, McTavish and Simms central, with Namoff, Burch, and Martinez across the back. The one exception would be maybe to start Cordeiro in place of Thompson, though I'm not certain Cordeiro tracks back as well as Thompson, nor am I certain of his injury status, given the Soehn Shroud of Secrecy that's descended upon United once again.
So what are your thoughts? What do you expect Tommy to roll out tonight at RFK? Is SuperLiga worth a SuperEffort, or are we just shooting ourselves in the foot by overextending our players with the Open Cup, Supporters' Shield, MLS Cup, and CONCACAF Champions' League still looming?