D.C. United vs. Portsmouth FC, July 24 at 7:30 p.m. ET at RFK Stadium
This is the first meeting between these clubs.
Saturday’s friendly features two clubs possessed of proud championship memories, but troubled by harsh present realities. The hosts are stuck in the MLS basement despite their trophy-winning pedigree, while severe financial problems have sent Portsmouth tumbling from the rarified air of the English Premier League to the second-division League Championship and an uncertain future. “Pompey” hope to pocket a few dollars and make some new fans on this preseason tour of the United States and Canada.
Portsmouth will have to understand if many United players are a bit more concerned with other priorities this weekend – namely, rest. Saturday marks DC’s fourth match in 10 days and exhausted starters like Santino Quaranta and Devon McTavish will likely be rotated, though head coach Curt Onalfo indicated that designated player Branko Boskovic would see plenty of action as he tries to play himself into shape for the season’s stretch run.
“I know that they don’t have a lot of money, and they lost some players,” said DC defender Carey Talley when asked about Portsmouth following United’s US Open Cup quarterfinal victory on Wednesday. “Still, they more than likely will have a lot of quality. They’ll have some younger guys out there who will be looking to impress.”
Two years ago, Portsmouth were living the dream, winning an FA Cup championship and punching above their weight in the Premiership – but they turned out to be living beyond their means as well.
The accumulation of a massive debt load was exacerbated by a succession of murky ownership groups, and PFC eventually had to declare bankruptcy, effectively condemning them to relegation and prompting painful austerity measures that included the sale of nearly every high-profile player.
The club hopes to sort out the finances and ensure survival in the year ahead, and that means young players will play major roles. Nine of the 14 players used by manager Steve Cotterill against FC Edmonton on Wednesday night are rookies.
Heroes & villains
David Nugent vs. United defense: Nugent’s career track has leveled off since he burst onto the English scene as a prolific goal-scorer for Preston North End in 2005. But the once-capped England international possesses plenty of quality and should be a handful for the threadbare DC back line.
Stat that makes you go “Hmm"
Poor Portsmouth. As if times weren’t tough enough for the cash-strapped club, their traveling squad to North America has endured several injuries and may have as few as 12 fit players to suit up at RFK.