Set the Table
- DC United are 3-1-7 (1-1-3 on the road) and sit 2nd in the East on 16 points while the Revolution are 2-3-4 (1-1-1 at home) and sit 6th in the East on 10 points.
- The last three league matches see both teams winless, with United drawing three times, while the Revs lost last time out after two draws.
- DC United will be without the injured Ben Olsen while...
- The Revs will be missing Albright and Badilla from their back line, Castro from midfield, and almost certainly Twellers up top.
Keys to the Match
- Adapt to the surface. While not nearly so bad as New York's glorified parking lot, the Rev's field plays fast and bobbly, a condition that would seem to suggest that we go with athleticism and energy in attack rather than guile and patience. Tommy might be leaning this way anyway given the stagnant performance by the vets last weekend, but much of United's defensive focus will depend upon who Nicol starts. If he goes with Ralston and Joseph, as he has of late, their ability to play the long ball to run onto will be negated as neither of those players is particularly fast, and we can play a high defensive line. If they put any of their young African burners up top, we may need to play a bit deeper to guard against this threat.
- Tight on the flanks. The Revs don't seem to create much through the middle this year unless it's from long balls. Much of the danger I've seen is coming in the form of balls from the wings, either flighted to the head of Joseph or looking to pick out the crafty Ralston. It's imperative that we limit their time and space with the ball in wide positions and try to funnel their attack through a middle that our five-man midfield can clog. Unless, of course, they plop Ralston behind a front two, in which case we'd be best served by denying him space to operate in.
- Test them early and often. The Revs haven't been creating many goals this year, and they are missing some players (and confidence!) at the back. Putting pressure on that defense and forcing them to make plays will produce chances. If we can take those chances (big "if," I know, given our non-Open Cup matches), that forces them to play more open, particularly since they don't create much in the first place. An open Revolution is a vulnerable Revolution. There's philosophy in there somewhere.
Line 'Em Up
- Emilio? Yup. I'd be tempted to go with N'Silu because this would seem to be a surface that favors his physical gifts and skill set, but Reis has been giving up rebounds, and that same surface will create scrappy chances from defensive miscues. We don't have a better pure predator to finish those chances than Emilio, thus he gets the start.
- No Moreno? As a sub, perhaps. I know we got excuses for last week's lame outing, but my lineup opts for energy over possession, thus the inclusion of Quaranta up top, though he and Pontius might be switched. Similarly, I appreciated Gomez' effort in the last match, particularly after he started cramping up. I'd also like his guile to unlock an inexperienced and somewhat makeshift Revs back line and to keep their holding midfielders honest.
- Return of the rooks? Again, it's a matter of energy and effort, and we're most likely to get that from the rookies on the flanks. I highlighted the importance of defending the flanks, which might make me consider McTavish over Pontius on the right, but I think we want to keep them on their heels defensively, thus my inclusion of Pontius (or Quaranta, if the two swap roles).
- Settled at the back? With Olsen still out injured, I don't think there's much doubt that we won't continue with the same back line and defensive midfield, right?
- Wicks on fire? Sure, he wouldn't be my first choice as a starting keeper, but it seems that Tommy's made it his job to lose. Here's hoping he doesn't take that chance.
So that's the way I see us lining up. There's always the chance that Tommy goes for the big shakeup this week to get a response after last week's disappointment, but it may be equally likely that he gives the same eleven a chance to redeem themselves. That might work if we were at home, but I think it's unlikely on the road and on a pitch that doesn't favor possession. What do you think? How would you line them up? Any predictions on the score? Think we'll look to attack or sit back?