I was hoping not to do this, but it’s that time of year. Here’s United’s probable lineup tonight against the Galaxy:
Hamid | Woolard, White, Kitchen, Korb (or maybe Barklage) | Pontius, Simms, McCarty, Najar | Wolff, Brettschneider
And here’s a D.C. United lineup made entirely of players who are unavailable to start:
?? | Zayner, Jakovic, Brasesco, McTavish | Burch, Morsink, Boskovic, Carreiro | Davies, Quaranta
Sure, it’s a bit of a makeshift lineup, with Burch pushed into the midfield and Carreiro getting the start, but that’s a halfway decent side. It’s also missing a goalkeeper, but I’m sure Bill Hamid is in the process of pulling a hamstring while cutting a grapefruit or buttoning his shirt as we speak.
Between the two sides, I’d take the one that is actually going to play tonight. And you could argue that that’s the biggest difference between last year’s United team and this one: this year, the injuries are happening more to role players and less to key guys. I wouldn’t agree with that argument...though I would agree with the premise that an injury to Jed Zayner affects the team less than an injury to Chris Pontius.
United’s opponent tonight, the L.A. Galaxy, are also missing some key players: the Donovans (Ricketts and Landon) are on Gold Cup duty, meaning that United will not face Landon Donovan this season (he missed their first meeting with an ankle something). Juan Pablo Angel probably won’t start because he has been displaced by a guy named Miguel Lopez. I’d like to give you more information on Mr. Lopez, but a Google search for “Miguel Lopez” turns up an Argentine filmmaker, a male model, a pro-marijuana candidate for governor in Colorado (seriously), a hair Salon in New York, and several dozen Facebook profiles, none of which appear to be the same guy who will play tonight for the Galaxy. David Beckham is scheduled to start, though you never know when he’ll have to jet out of town for a royal make-your-own-sundae party or Paul Scholes’ retirement brunch or something like that.
Both teams are in good form, or at least good-by-their-recent-standards form: United are unbeaten in their last four, and the Galaxy have won their last four, are unbeaten in their last six, and have the most points in the league. When the two teams met in April, there was little doubt that the Galaxy were the better team, but United are proving increasingly tough to play against and could well scrape out a result tonight. The soccer should be a lot more watchable than last week’s match against Portland; the Home Depot Center is a big field with a fast surface. If United are capable of scoring a goal off of a sustained move through the midfield, then now would be the time to show it.
Here are some things I’d like to see:
Solid play from our two rookie center backs. There’s been a lot of debate on this blog about Dejan Jakovic; some think he’s the linchpin of our defense, others think he should sit. Put me in the “unconvinced” camp. We’ll be without Jakovic for a while (and so will Canada — he showed his United colors by pulling a hamstring this week), so we’re about to learn exactly how important he is to this defense. Personally, I advocated the Kitchen-White central tandem a few weeks ago...so prepare for them to get lit up tonight by the likes of Chad Barrett.
Fewer hamstring pulls than goals for United. Think about this: who’s on United’s bench tonight? Well, either Korb or Barklage, Cronin, Davies (seems like he’s available but unlikely to start), Fred, King, Shanosky...who else? You’ve got one more spot, but nobody to fill it. Brasesco was on the bench last match, though I don’t know that he’s really fit to play. You could give it to third-string goalkeeper Joe Willis, I guess. A few more hamstring pulls and that bench is going to start looking pretty pathetic. Maybe United can auction off a vanity bench spot or two to the fans. For $400 you get to wear a penny, kick the ball around at halftime, and pass out Gatorade bottles. For an extra $200, Ben will let you yell at the fourth official.
Blake Brettschneider earning Goff’s feature piece about him in the Post today. Okay, Blake: we, the media, have gone through the trouble of learning how to spell your name. We’re not calling you Brett Blakeschneider anymore. We did this because it looks like you’re sticking around. I hope you can repay our investment by continuing to play well.
Positive possession from the midfield. Like a little girl asking for a pony for Christmas, I keep asking for this even though I am unlikely to get it.