DC United should easily be the more desperate team as they try to claw their way back to respectability, while Colorado sits in their usual spot right in the middle of a tightly packed Western Conference, and for once DC will actually be facing a team with worse recent form than themselves. Colorado has been on the wrong end of two 1-0 losses in their last 2 matches, while DC won their last time out in RFK and cruelly lost in Dallas despite playing well enough to steal a point at least.
DC should be starting virtually the same lineup that beat KC and played well in Dallas too, while Colorado has been juggling their players a little bit and might shake up things even more to break out of their scoring slump. Assuming Hamid starts in goal again for DC, and he should considering he’s a big reason why DC’s defense has stopped bleeding goals, Onalfo will almost certainly make only one other change as Julius James seems likely to step in for rookie right back Jordan Graye who tweaked a hamstring in Dallas.
Colorado on the other hand should be getting back Colin Clark, which is not good news as he’s miles better than Wells Thompson, but he’s also played very little since coming back from a knee injury late last year. Plus, their defense is a bit unsettled as they experiment with Marvel Wynn in central defense and try to keep their red card happy Frenchman Julien Baudet on the field consistently.
With both teams playing a very similar style 4-4-2, it’s pretty much mano a mano all over the field and DC has some matchups that should go their way.
Going forward, Cristman and Allsopp might well be physical and crafty enough to outfox the lumbering Baudet and while Wynn is fast and good, he’s not really taken well to central defense. He has the speed to cover for mistakes no question, but then again he’s often the one making the mistakes as he’s caught out of position.
On the wings, Castillo and Wallace could outplay Moor and Ballouchy as Colorado’s Moroccan talent is very inconsistent and barely defends with any kind of enthusiasm at all. So Wallace may well be able to get forward to help Castillo gang up on Moor. The other side could be nice for DC too. Khumalo outplayed Earls in the Open Cup last year, when the Irishman played for the Rhinos, and if Boyzzz can just take his game up a notch should be able to do so again, especially if Clark is a little rusty.
Obviously, the center of the field is a total loss as Larentowicz and Mastroeni are about the best pairing of holding midfielders in MLS, so Simms and Morsink would need to play way above their heads to get an advantage. But if United’s wing players are dynamic enough to pull those guys wide to help defend and get them all out of shape, maybe DC sneaks something there.
DC has some advantages in the defensive matchups too. Obviously, the key is Casey and Cummings being taken out of the game, and that might be no problem as Pena and Talley have looked very solid the past two weeks, while C-N-C have been sub-par for Colorado so far this year. Ebony and Ivory were the best duo in MLS last year, but have looked more like Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney so far this year, despite having scored 5 of Colorado’s 8 goals. Casey’s three goals have been PKs he didn’t earn, and Cummings hasn’t scored in over 5 weeks.
Colorado’s offense has truly been offensive most of this year. They’ve been shut out three times including the last two matches, and aside from 5 goals scored at home against the Fire and TFC, the Rapids only have 3 goals in their other 5 matches combined. Granted that’s more goals than DC has scored in RFK this year, but the fact remains their offense is struggling too. However, it is a bit disturbing Colorado have been pretty successful on the road this year. They’re 2-2 so far with wins in NE and at Chivas to go with two narrow 1-0 losses in LA and KC, while DC had three straight 2-0 losses at home before the 2-1 KC win.
Still, United has a huge advantage in the historical intangibles. DC is at home in front of a fanbase clamoring for positive results, and where they won last time out, while Colorado will have to overcome an epic string of failures at RFK. If any team has bad mojo in a certain stadium, it’s Colorado in RFK. The Rapids haven’t won in DC in over 10 years. They haven’t even managed a tie in RFK since 2006, but more importantly haven’t beat DC here since Jorge Dely Valdez phoned home in 1999, going 0-7-4 since the turn of the century. And it hasn’t even been close. Since that tie in 2006, DC has outscored the Rapids 10-2 here over the past 3 years.
This is a match DC should win if they have any hope of getting themselves out of the league cellar. Assuming the soccer gods remain on the side of the angels, there’s no excuse for DC to lose this game, they certainly shouldn’t be outworked or outplayed if they have any pride whatsoever and actually want to get themselves back to respectability at the very least. Obviously, DC needs a lot more wins to even hope to get into playoff contention, but that’s for later. Another nice easy cruise over the Rapids in RFK could go a long way to putting United’s hideous start to the season well behind them.