To say that things are tight in the MLS Eastern Conference would be an understatement. Only six points separate first place Kansas City and sixth place D.C. United. The Union, who sit in fourth place in the conference, four points off the top of the table, host D.C. United tonight at PPL Park (8PM/ESPN2) in a game with major playoff implications.
Both teams are coming off of impressive results. The Union picked up a crucial road point in Kansas City on Friday. D.C. smoked Real Salt Lake 4-1 at home. United is 2-2-1 over its last five, while the Union are 1-1-3 over that same stretch. The Union only have four games left after tonight. They need to start picking up three points at a time if they hope to make the playoffs.
Freddy Adu, who missed the Kansas City game due to an ankle injury, should hopefully be fit enough to face his former team for the first time. Adu joined D.C. as a 14 year old, the first overall pick in the 2004 MLS Super Draft.
United is now coached by Adu's former teammate, local boy Ben Olsen, who played his club ball for local powerhouse FC Delco.
The game will feature two of the hottest players in MLS. Sebastien Le Toux has scored seven goals in his last seven games. United's Dwayne De Rosario, who came to D.C. in a trade from New York, is coming off of a hat trick against Real Salt Lake. He's played so well that he's garnering MLS MVP consideration despite not joining United until mid-season.
In addition to Le Toux and De Rosario the game will showcase two of the league's best young playmaking midfielders. Both Roger Torres and Andy Najar possess the unique ability to pick out and complete passes in tight spaces and tough angles. They bring a ton of creativity to the game.
The Union will again be without Faryd Mondragon, who continues to recover from a broken finger. Sheannon Williams will also likely be out again (UPDATE: Williams is starting). Michael Farfan filled in for Williams in Kansas City and was responsible for setting up Le Toux's tying goal.
Lineup I'd Like to See Tonight: Zac MacMath, Michael Farfan, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Gabe Farfan, Brian Carroll, Kyle Nakazawa, Amobi Okugo, Roger Torres, Sebastien Le Toux, Danny Mwanga.
Final Score Prediction: The Union have finally gotten back to what made them successful in the early going - defense. They need to keep things locked down in the back in support of the young MacMath. The home crowd pushes the Union to a 2-1 win.
The Toni Stahl Memorial Player Most Likely to See Red: Assuming he gets the starting nod, I'll go with Okugo. He'll be matched up with D-Ro, which could be a nightmare.
Photo from @UWISHUNU