Atlanta United will play at D.C. United on Sunday at sparkling new Audi Field.
It is an important game for both teams.
With a game in hand, the Five Stripes trail New York Red Bulls by one point in the race for the Supporters’ Shield. They could trail by four by the time of Sunday’s game because the Red Bulls play at Montreal on Saturday.
D.C. United has lost two consecutive games. It trails sixth-place Montreal by six points having played three fewer games.
Though it is still thought to be a contender for the sixth and final playoff spot in the East, the pressure will mount if they can’t get at least a point against Atlanta United on Sunday.
Steven Goff of the Washington Post answered five questions about Sunday’s game:
Q. The Wayne Rooney- Luciano Acosta partnership has been fun to watch. How much work was done on the training pitch to achieve those results?
A. Rooney and Acosta have bonded splendidly, and Acosta is playing the best soccer of his three-year career in Washington. The relationship took hold in training upon Rooney's arrival in early July.
Q. Atlanta United played a significant number of games in a short period last season, and started to run out of gas near the end. Is D.C. United deep enough to survive their upcoming stretch and qualify for the playoffs?
A. We're about to find out. Ben Olsen seems to have good depth: Darren Mattocks (nine goals), Costa Rican intl Ulises Segura, US youth intl Chris Durkin and Hungarian intl Zoltan Stieber are available as a subs. United is playing a lot of matches in a tight window, but almost all of them are at home and the two trips are easy (NYCFC and Chicago). Fatigue will become an issue at some point, but so far, DCU has held up well.
Q. What is Yamil Asad's status, and if he can't play who will on Sunday?
A. Asad injured an ankle at Red Bulls on Sunday. He isn't expected to play tonight verus Philly and seems unlikely to feature Sunday against his former club. Zoltan Stieber is the natural replacement.
Q. With Rooney and the opening of Audi Field, combined with the Nationals' struggles and the Redskins being the Redskins, are more people paying attention to D.C. United in the city now?
A. The combination of Rooney's arrival and Audi Field's opening has elevated DCU's presence in a challenging sports market: Redskins, Nationals, Capitals, Wizards, Ravens, Orioles, U of Maryland. Casual sports fans have taken notice, no question. It's been a strange season with so many away matches early and home games late. Next spring will provide a better indication of where the team stands in the local sports landscape.
Q. What is the matchup to watch and how do you think it will go?
A. Fascinated to see how center backs Steve Birnbaum and Kofi Opare handle Josef Martinez. Opare entered the starting lineup this summer and has performed well. Birnbaum is having a good season. Martinez obviously poses a massive test for the backline.