Despite the likelihood of Zlatan Ibrahimovic making his Paris Saint-Germain debut, ticket sales for the D.C. United friendly Saturday night at RFK Stadium are soft. The realistic best-case scenario is 14,000.
Several factors have worked against United:
The original opponent, Serie A champion Juventus, withdrew five weeks ago and was replaced by a less attractive foe (even one that has bulked up its roster recently with substantial signings).
The friendly between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday has greater regional appeal and enjoyed a head start in marketing and promotion.
PSG hasn’t helped marketing efforts. After playing in New York last weekend, the club trained all week at Princeton and won’t arrive in Washington until this afternoon. Its only training session is this evening at RFK (closed to the public).
At last check, more than 35,000 tickets had been sold for the Baltimore match (1 p.m., ESPN2, ESPN3.com).
Why is the Spurs-Liverpool match beginning so early on a predictably sweltering summer day?
The Orioles, who share parking lots with M&T Bank Stadium next door, are hosting the Oakland Athletics at 7 p.m.
Why no live TV for United’s match (tape only on Fox Soccer at 10 p.m.)?
United likely would have had a live window at 6 p.m. for the Juventus game. But when the Italians pulled out and PSG stepped in, United moved kickoff to 7:30 — the normal time at RFK — in an effort to enhance ticket sales.
Fox is locked into programming at 8 o’clock (the U.S. under-19 boys’ championship). In a nutshell, United chose the potential of greater ticket revenue over live TV. Can’t blame them for that.
In the Fox Soccer broadcast booth at RFK: Dave Johnson and former U.S. World Cup star Brian McBride.
*With his club in subpar form and the summer schedule disrupting rhythm, DCU Coach Ben Olsen plans to employ a strong lineup and treat this game more like a league match than an inconsequential friendly. More on Olsen’s approach in the formal print and online story tonight/tomorrow.
*Midfielder Branko Boskovic, who spent two seasons with PSG, might play 45 minutes, Olsen said. Boskovic missed the Columbus trip last weekend with a calf injury.
*Midfielder Dwayne De Rosario and defender Dejan Jakovic are likely to join Canada for a friendly against Trinidad & Tobago on Aug. 15 in Lauderhill, Fla., Olsen said. The match falls on a FIFA fixture date and four days before United hosts the Philadelphia Union.
*Both Boskovic (Montenegro) and forward Hamdi Salihi (Albania) said they are unsure whether they will play in Aug. 15 home friendlies against Latvia and Moldova, respectively. General Manager Dave Kasper said he hasn’t received any official notification from those federations.
*Will Juergen Klinsmann call D.C. United’s Chris Pontius for the U.S. friendly that same day at Mexico?
Pontius is in great form this season and scored against Chelsea in the MLS All-Star Game. Although the match at Azteca Stadium falls on a FIFA date, both coaches seem likely to allow some European-based players to remain with their clubs ahead of the league campaigns getting underway. In that case, Klinsmann would probably summon more MLS players than usual.
“If I get the call, I get the call — it’s as simple as that,” said Pontius, who has participated in two U.S. camps the past 2 1/2 years but doesn’t have any caps. “I’d like to show well against PSG – that’s all that is on my mind.”
Said Olsen: “What you want to see with guys that do well in MLS, when they play with better players, how does that translate? The other night [against Chelsea] was a pretty good step for him. Now the game was getting a little bit wide open and we have to take it for what it’s worth, but the stage itself was big and you want guys to do well on those stages. ... For Chris, I think it will move him forward into this second half of the season and continue with the run he is on.”