Feb. 23, 8 pm ET (FS1, Sportsnet World)
Queretaro FC vs. D.C. United
Estadio La Corregidora, Queretaro, Mexico
2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, first leg
D.C. United may have gotten the most favorable draw out of all MLS teams in the CCL quarterfinals, considering, but they face some questions of their own as they head down to Mexico.
The biggest concern is at goalkeeper, where 2014 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Bill Hamid will be out until the summer after undergoing right knee surgery in January, giving a chance to experienced backup Andrew Dykstra. However, they will also be missing a lot of the midfield bite they became known for over the past few years. Perry Kitchen is no longer with the club, having declined to sign a new contract, while reliable veteran Davy Arnaud continues to sit on the sidelines as he deals with concussion-related issues. The addition of experienced CCL campaigner Marcelo Sarvas from the LA Galaxy will help in this department.
United do have a wild card to play in Luciano Acosta, the diminutive attacking midfielder signed from Boca Juniors. His addition signals a potential shift in style for the famously rigid D.C. of the past few years and puts United among the many MLS clubs to boast an Argentine playmaker. New addition Lamar Neagle joins Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola in a stable of experienced CCL campaigners in the attack and should provide some flexibility for head coach Ben Olsen in the series, given his ability to play both on the wing and up front.
Queretaro will be hoping the CCL can provide a welcome relief from what has been a disappointing start to the Clausura 2016 tournament in Liga MX, where they sit 13th after a 2-4-0 start. Their squad is certainly equipped for a run in the tournament, especially in attack, where veteran forward Emmanuel ‘Tito’ Villa boasts 17 goals. Winger Edgar Benitez, a Paraguayan international, has nine CCL goals and figures to be available after sustaining a minor injury in late January. Off the bench, Queretaro can rely on 39-year-old midfielder Sinha, a longtime fixture in Liga MX whose age has had little effect on his vision and guile that made him a legend for Toluca.
Elsewhere, MLS and USMNT fans will recognize a number of players donning Queretaro jerseys: left back Jonathan Bornstein is a regular fixture and midfielder Luis Gil has seen the field in his last four league games since joining the team from Real Salt Lake this winter. Forward Camilo Sanvezzo, the 2013 MLS Golden Boot winner with Vancouver, has missed most of the last two Liga MX tournaments with injury, but has recently returned to the training field and could be in line to see the field against D.C.
- D.C. United: Can Olsen's men overcome last year's disappointment without Hamid?
- Queretaro: How do the CCL first-timers match up against D.C.?
"United are experienced and have continuity on the backline, but the absence of Bill Hamid is just too much to overcome." -- Matt Doyle
"The struggling Liga MX side want no part of this feisty and gutsy D.C. United team. MLS finally gets its revenge against [Queretaro head coach] Victor Manuel Vucetich, who foiled RSL in the 2011 CCL final with Monterrey." -- Simon Borg
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