D.C. United vs. Toronto FC
2017 MLS Match Preview
RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.
Saturday, August 5 – 7 pm ET
WATCH: TSN in Canada, MLS LIVE in the US
After a relentless 4-0 victory over Eastern Conference challengers New York City FC, sparked by a stunning brace from Sebastian Giovinco, the first-place Reds could confirm themselves as the biggest of big dogs in the East with a second consecutive dominant performance against a side that is overmatched on paper.
And although their trip to the US capital to face the Eastern Conference's last-place team has elements of a trap game, the memory of a 1-1 draw against Western Conference strugglers Colorado Rapids should be fresh in Toronto's minds.
Meanwhile, the Black-and-Red are looking to prove that supporters should still have hopes for the remainder of 2017 after an embarrassing 4-0 loss to Minnesota United rather than looking ahead to next year.
The math suggests a playoff push is a near impossibility after a six-game losing streak that is one short of a club record. But those who make the trek during the final months of RFK Stadium's MLS lifespan may at least see Luciano Acosta and Patrick Mullins on the same field for a change.
They've played just 95 minutes together this season, but Mullins is back from a prolonged injury absence and Acosta is expected to play after a niggling ankle injury limited him to a half in Minnesota. Rekindling some of the chemistry they showed in a 2016 playoff push could help build some good will as D.C. prepares for its Audi Field move in 2018.
For most of coach Ben Olsen's trying seasons, D.C. has felt like the metaphorical sinking ship that springs a new leak the moment an old one is fixed. The Black-and-Red have shown indefinitely more attacking promise over their last four games than in most of the season, only to have conceded 15 goals in that stretch.
The same vibe is true in the trainers' room, where Ian Harkes is the latest to succumb to injury in an injury ravaged midfield. And although reports suggest some high-profile help is on the way before the transfer window closes, it's unclear whether such additions would make a tangible impact this season, let alone this weekend.
- Suspended: None
- International Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT: M Rob Vincent (left knee meniscus), M Ian Harkes (ankle); QUESTIONABLE: M Patrick Nyarko (concussion)
Projected Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1, left to right): Bill Hamid – Sean Franklin, Steve Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, Taylor Kemp – Marcelo Sarvas, Jared Jeffrey – Lloyd Sam, Lucho Acosta, Lamar Neagle – Deshorn Brown
Notes: D.C. United’s 6.8% chance conversion rate is on pace to be the fourth worst of any team in the league over the course of a season since the start of the 2010 campaign. If they continue at this rate, D.C. will have three of the four worst conversion rates over this time (2010 – 5.7%; 2013 – 5.5%).
For the Reds, Saturday's match will be the first of eight in their final 12 that comes against clubs that sit below the playoff line entering Week 22.
With a five-point lead in the Supporters' Shield race, holding serve in those matches will go a long way toward Toronto earning the shield for the first time, as will the outcome of a visit to Toyota Park and the second-place Chicago Fire in two weeks' time.
There is one added difficulty to facing a struggling team this weekend, though. Coach Greg Vanney will have to manage the returns of Giovinco, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore from the MLS All-Star Game while Olsen has had all of his healthy players in training all week.
- Suspended: None
- International duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT: D - Steven Beitashour (abdominal injury); D Oyvind Alseth (laceration), M Benoit Cheyrou (calf tear)
Projected Starting XI (3-5-2, left-to-right): Alex Bono – Chris Mavinga, Drew Moor, Eriq Zavaleta – Justin Morrow, Victor Vazquez, Michael Bradley, Marco Delgado, Raheem Edwards – Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore
Notes: Toronto has lost just one of its last six meetings against D.C. United (4W-1D) ... Both of Giovinco's goals last weekend came from outside the box, making it his fourth MLS brace scored entirely from beyond the penalty area. Only one other player has done that in a single match since the start of the 2015 season (Felipe vs. Houston in March 2016.)
- Overall: D.C. lead 13-10-4
- At D.C.: D.C. lead 5-4-3
- Referee: Allen Chapman
- Assistant Referees: Kyle Atkins, Eduardo Mariscal
- Fourth Official: Rubiel Vazquez
- Video Assistant Referee: Ismail Elfath