Árabe Unido vs. D.C. United
2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League
August 19 | 8 pm ET | Estadio Maracaná
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D.C. United will kick off their second consecutive CONCACAF Champions League campaign on Wednesdaynight with a visit to Panamanian side Árabe Unido.
Heavily favored in Group H, more than a few key United contributors will likely forego the trip to Panama City. Among them is head coach Ben Olsen, who will be serving a suspension earned during United’s final CCL match of the 2014-2015 competition.
A FRESH START: D.C. will be eager to atone for their performance in their last CCL appearance, one that saw them storm through the group stage before giving up a five-spot to Costa Rican side Alajuelense en route to a quarterfinal crash out. D.C. seem well-equipped for the task this time around, having remained at or near the top of the Eastern Conference for the majority of 2015. Their depth – which they’ll surely rely on in CCL play, as any MLS team in this competition does – has played a key part in their success this year.
Winners of three of their last four, D.C. have to be considered favorites to leave Estadio Maracaná with all three points on Wednesday. But this is CONCACAF, where anything can happen.
IN GOOD FORM: D.C. aren’t the only ones enjoying a decent run of form. Árabe are doing some table-topping of their own, having won four and tied one in their first five matches of the Panamanian Apertura. They opened CCL play in a similarly successful manner, easily dispatching tournament debutants Montego Bay United F.C. 3-0 in their opener earlier this month. With a roster featuring national teamers such as forward Abdiel Arroyo and defender Angel Patrick, the Panamanians aren’t exactly pushovers.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
CHRIS PONTIUS AND ANDREW DYKSTRA, D.C. UNITED:Having recently recovered from a nagging hip injury, Pontius could see the XI for the first time in a couple of months on Wednesday. He’ll be eager to contribute but also build his fitness towards a full return to league play. Dykstra will likely be United’s ‘keeper through the group stage at minimum – fair or not, he bore much of the blame for United’s elimination in the 2014-2015 edition of CCL, perhaps a bit of fuel for his fire in this year’s tourney.
ABDIEL ARROYO AND RENÁN ADDLES, ÁRABE UNIDO: Arroyo is coming off a solid run representing Panama at the Gold Cup and was recently a transfer target for Marathon in Honduras and several Peruvian sides. He’s coming off a nine-goal campaign but has yet to find his form this club season. Addles, on the other hand, has more recently been Árabe’s chief contributor, finding the back of the net three times already in league play and adding another in CCL action.