Beyond the usual bump in attendance home openers generate, season ticket sales are up, and the general buzz surrounding the home debut of Earnie Stewart could sell out United's new lowered capacity. With the lower bowl nearly full, RFK should be an absolute frenzy of drumming, singing, and confetti. If that type of support doesn't inspire the new troops to greatness, then nothing will. The valiant loss in KC was one thing, but a losing effort just isn't going to cut it this weekend.
With Ivanov, Reyes, and likely Prideaux still out, DC's defense continues to be a bit thin, but since it's a home game against a weakened Chicago offense, that shouldn't be a problem at all. The conservative game plan was fine for the road opener in KC, but opening in RFK is a whole different kettle of fans. The real focus for DC should be to show that all the offensive firepower collected over the off-season is ready to rock and roll.
DCUnited.com is reporting that Quintanilla is likely to start alongside Quaranta at forward for United, which is excellent news. He's been tearing up the pre-season and looks to be developing a great understanding with Marco and Stewart. Teen-O took a bit of a beating being the lone forward against KC, but with Quintanilla to take some of the pressure off him, he should be that much more effective. Q2 spurring some of his homeys to root for United isn't a bad thing either.
So, offensively DC should easily have an edge over Chicago's defense, especially if CJ Brown is still out. Convey, Marco, Stewart, Olsen, Q1, and Q2 roaring down the field attacking from anywhere should definitely pin the Fire back on their heels most of the match. That kind of pressure should result in a few goals at least.
Convey and Bennie stretching the field wide should cause Chicago fits and give Marco, Stewart, and Quintanilla room to carve up Chicago's central defense either setting up Quaranta, or scoring themselves. Armas has had success against Marco in the past, but without Marsch to help him, I doubt he has enough fingers to plug all the holes in the dyke that Stewart, Marco, and Q2 will create. If Brown can play and allow Gray to help Armas in MF, then that changes things a bit, but even so, DC has a huge advantage skill-wise going at their defense and they should score at least two.
Defensively, United does have to throttle Beasley, but really that's about it. Call me crazy, but as good as DaMarcus is, he'll have a tough time carrying this team. He's only scored 6 goals and has less than a dozen assists in his MLS career playing on better teams than this year's edition. Those numbers are like one season worth for Olsen, Dema, Convey, Marco, even Tino, not to mention what Stewart could do. It'll be a huge step up for him to be the main man for Chicago. I just don't see it happening.
With Whitfield and Perez on the wings likely pinned back on defense for most of the game, that'll leave Beasley with only the help of two journeyman, and maybe a teenager or two hoping to crack United's defense. Faria and Williams are dangerous to an extent, both having torched United a few times in the past, but you've got to figure Petke knows Faria's tendencies and Dema's athleticism alone should keep Williams from anything more than his usual dribbling into trouble. If Dema only got burned badly once by Preki, Williams should be a piece of cake. As for the teenagers, either Capano or Mapp, they'll both have to play much better than they did versus NE to make any impact on this game.
Chicago will almost certainly be relying on counter attacks, or dead balls to score. They are fast in the open field, but so are Namoff and Dema, and Rimando might almost be playing a sweeper in this game. Petke and Nelsen aren't exactly fleet of foot, but they are both smart enough to hold fast players in check as they showed against Simutenkov, Wolff, and the rest of KC's speedy forward corps. The Fire also have some big foreheads to use on FK's in Curtin and Bocanegra, but Nelsen, and Petke are pretty decent in the air too. Chicago may get a counter or a FK goal, but I can't see DC giving up more than one total.
So, there you have it. Given the home field boost, the tactical advantages, and the overall talent disparity, as well as my usual optimistic rationalizations, DC has no business losing this game. If the Fire couldn't score against only 10 Revs in Chicago, then they should struggle against DC at RFK where they've only won twice lifetime. Chicago is 3-1-1 in road openers, but the loss was here at RFK. DC is 4-2-1 in home openers including a resounding win last year against the Fire when Marco scored a highlight film FK in a 2-0 victory.
The curtain is about to go up in United's house. Time to knock 'em dead.