Atlanta United (10-7-5) will play at D.C. United (6-15-4) on Wednesday at RFK Stadium. It will be the third and final meeting between the teams. D.C. United won the previous two games.
Atlanta United is unbeaten in its past six games, but hasn’t played since tying Sporting KC 1-1 on Aug. 6. D.C. United, with a revamped roster, is coming off a 1-0 win at Colorado. It was its first win since defeating Atlanta United 2-1 on June 21.
Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) of the Washington Post answered three questions ahead of Wednesday’s game.
(Why just three questions, instead of the usual five? Two games this week, that’s why.)
1. What do you expect will be the biggest difference in the team (tactics, speed, skills, etc.) with the new faces, compared to the previous two times it played and defeated Atlanta United?
A: DCU will line up the same way as it has most of the season: 4-2-3-1. After the surge of roster moves, plus a bunch of injuries, some of the personnel is now different. Paul Arriola offers greater speed and unpredictability on the right flank. Russell Canouse seems to be settling in nicely in one of those two holding spots in central midfield. Bruno Miranda will see some time up top. With Bobby Boswell gone, Steve Birnbaum and Kofi Opare are the center backs. However, Birnbaum suffered another head knock Saturday. United is still waiting for Hungarian international Zoltan Stieber to gain a work permit. When he does, he's probably line up on the left wing, though fitness is an issue after several months without a full 90 performance. Luciano Acosta remains the centerpiece of the attack.
2. Who becomes the focus of the team as a leader?
A: Acosta remains the attacking leader from his playmaking role, but Arriola is sure to have a strong voice on the field. Striker Patrick Mullins is back at full strength and, with Deshorn Brown out with a concussion, he should see the bulk of the minutes up front. Mullins will need to take the initiative in the final third and be a true target for Acosta's distribution. In the back, goalkeeper Bill Hamid runs the show. He was terrific Saturday at Colorado.
3. Does it feel different around the team, like a page has been turned and the future seems brighter?
A: For sure, there is fresh energy and optimism after the transfer/trade deadline madness. Though the playoffs are almost out of reach, United has not given up. With a victory at Colorado and three consecutive home games, the organization feels as though it can make some noise down the stretch. It would probably be too little too late, but no one has quit on Coach Ben Olsen and the influx of new personnel offers hope for the closing two months and the start of 2018.