D.C. may have been eliminated from Champion's League play on Wednesday, but they did win, and will be looking to build on that momentum. The change to beat the boys in blue, the side that did advance to the semi-finals in Champion's League, is just icing on the cake. Our first match in MLS in 2015 is going to be an excellent showdown.
Where Can I Watch?
The match will be broadcast (en français) on RDS at 3pm. MLSLive will carry an American feed of the game as well.
What to Expect:
Both clubs are coming off big moments. D.C. beat Alajuelense 2-1 Wednesday night and despite failing to advance, will be looking to consolidate those gains with a win against conference rivals and Champion's League semi-finalists, L'Impact de Montréal. Le bleu-blanc-noir drew C.D. Pachuca 1-1 last Tuesday with one of the biggest goals in club history, and will be on the road looking to show the MLS that they're not the same old weak side they were last year. Both sides will play to win.
What's on the line:
3 points, and momentum. It's the first game of league play for the boys in blue, and we're still very much finding our form. We saw nearly 40,000 people turn out for the game against Pachuca and from the priority both management and coaching have placed on Champion's League, it looks like we'll be focusing our attention there. D.C. are in the opposite boat. Having been eliminated from Champion's League contention, they will be looking to come out of the gate hard and show the MLS that they are a threat, but beating a team that advanced when they could not. This is a fight about prestige. Montréal need to win to show momentum to the fans. D.C. need a win to stave off stagnation and shake the cobwebs loose.
D.C.'s first game against Alajuelense was marred by injuries that exposed a real lack of depth in key positions. I'm expecting that all key players will be healthy 2 weeks later, and that D.C. will use the same line-up they used to defeat the Costa Ricans a few days ago. That line-up is as follows:
Defenders: Franklin, Boswell, Birnbaum, Korb
Midfield: DeLeon, Arnaud, Kitchen, Pontius
Forwards: Rolfe, Arrieta
This line-up has a lot of chemistry in the core, who were together for much of last season, including a play-off run. This team might have some fatigue from their game Wednesday, but they don't have to travel and are playing at home. Fabian Espindola is suspended for the first 6 games of the MLS season, and his threatening speed won't be a worry for our first game.
Keys to victory:
Defence, defence, defence, and a quick transition. Our defence will be key to taking down the tandem attack of Arrieta and Rolfe - arguably weaker than if Espindola was starting. Our new defensive coach, Enzo Concina, was the coach for D.C. United's improved defence last year, and is considered by many fans to be the architect of much of D.C.'s success last season. His coaching of Ciman and Soumare will be key in how we play against other MLS opponents. Secondly, our quick transition on the attack is critical. Alajuelense discovered quickly that with speed and by switching the point of attack, the United defence can be exposed and is slow to react to multiple attacking options. I'm expecting coach Frank Klopas to use McInnerny, Duka, Mapp and Piatti all out in this attack to try and change the point of attack.
Probable Starting 11:
Keeper: Evan Bush
Defenders: Hassoun Camara, Laurent Ciman, Bakary Soumare, Maxim Tissot
Midfield (D): Patrice Bernier, Nigel Reo-Coker
Midfield (A): Justin Mapp, Ignacio Piatti, Dilly Duka
Forward: Jack McInerney
I think both Cabrera and Donny Toia performed wonderfully Tuesday night, but don't think they will start as they're both pretty banged up - Cabrera himself took a lot of punishment. Also, Frank Klopas knows he needs to start showcasing some of our homegrown Québécois talent, and an early league match is the perfect time to do so.