September 15, 2019

D.C. United Game 13 Preview: Defending MLS Cup champs visit RFK tonight

D.C. United looks to make up ground in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference tonight when Sporting Kansas City comes to RFK for a 7 p.m. kickoff. The game will be broadcast locally on CSN. Given the combination of United forward Eddie Johnson having his red card from last week rescinded, and the lack of availability for a couple key Sporting Kansas City players, United are presented with a decent chance to get all three points and move to 6-4-3 on the season.

United comes into tonight’s match off a 2-1 loss at Eastern leaders New England last week. D.C. sit five points behind the Revolution in the race for first place, and one point back of SKC for second. United are 4-0-2 in the last six home matches following a season-opening loss to the Columbus Crew. Sporting Kansas City is 2-3 away from home in 2014.

But it isn’t a full-strength SKC side that United will battle tonight. Forward Graham Zusi and defender Matt Besler both will miss the match due to their duty with the U.S. Men’s National Team in preparation for the World Cup. Midfielder Lawrence Olum, who has seen limited minutes this season, is also out, on national duty for Kenya. Defenders Ike Opara and Chance Myers, as well as midfielder Peterson Joseph, all are slated to miss the match due to injury.

While United has some injury concerns such as the long-term absence of midfielder Chris Pontius (hamstring) and whether midfielder/forward Chris Rolfe will be 100 percent after not making the trip to New England last week, United’s personnel situation certainly looks much stronger. Johnson, who was to have been suspended for his straight red card last week, will now be available for selection after a review committee deemed the red card incorrect and rescinded Johnson’s suspension.

If Rolfe is healthy, United head coach Ben Olsen will have his choice of attacking options, in an attempt to work in Rolfe, Johnson, and team goals and assists leader Fabian Espindola into the lineup together. Espindola and Rolfe have combined for nine goals and eight assists already this season. Johnson has struggled, with one goal and one assist in 10 matches. Dom Dwyer leads Sporting with 10 goals on the season, giving him one more goal scored this season than the entire Montreal Impact team.

One slight personnel concern for United would crop up if midfielders Davy Arnaud or Perry Kitchen receive a yellow card tonight. That would cause either to be suspended for United’s home match vs. Columbus on Saturday, June 7. SKC has no players in such trouble.

Tonight’s match is United’s fifth of a seven-game stretch prior to the World Cup Break against Eastern Conference opponents. D.C. is 2-1-1 so far in the run. Sporting Kansas City, which won the 2013 MLS Cup, is winless in its last four matches, losing two and drawing the last two against Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls. SKC had second-half leads in both of those ties.

This is the 49th regular season meeting between United and Kansas City, teams that met in the 2004 MLS Cup Final with United winning. SKC leads the series, 20-18-10, but United is 12-6-5 against Kansas City at RFK Stadium. It will be the first meeting between the clubs this season, with SKC having taken seven of a possible nine points from the three matchups in 2013.

Ed Morgans is the D.C. United Page Editor for District Sports Page. For in-game analysis and story notifications, follow him on Twitter @writered21.

About Ed Morgans

Ed Morgans is DC United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Ed worked for The Journal Newspapers (now The Examiner) and covered DC United from 1997-2002. He spent the 2003 season writing for the club’s website. Ed has covered All-Star Games, MLS Cups, CONCACAF Champions Cup, World Cup qualifiers, and international friendlies. He also worked as a blogger at www.bigsoccer.com, the country’s leading soccer message board website. You can follow Ed on Twitter @writerEd21.

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