The stage is a set for D.C. United’s penultimate home match of the MLS regular season, as they host the New York Red Bulls in what is a must-win fixture for both sides.
Amazingly D.C. United once again managed to hold their ground through another hectic round of fixtures, meaning they go into tonight’s match in ninth place. While sitting second from bottom in the Eastern Conference, the Red Bulls are in no way out of playoff contention as they trail D.C. by only five points.
With each passing matchday, the margin of points separating the teams fighting for playoff contention lessens, with this week seeing six points separate eighth-place CF Montréal from the fourteenth-place Red Bulls. The importance of points intensifies with each game as we rapidly approach the end of the regular season, and D.C. will need to end their recent trend of narrowly missing out on the full three points they’ve deserved if they want to hold on to their current playoff spot position.
The sides last met in late August, for what was both teams’ return to MLS play after their Leagues Cup hiatus. A match that saw the Red Bulls grab an 88′ winner to send D.C. United back to the capitol with no points in tow. D.C. will be looking to rectify that result as both sides go into the match with lackluster records from their past five matches, but with actual form slightly favoring United.
Key Player: Gabriel Pirani
The Brazilian midfielder has been class since joining D.C. United on loan last month (in which he made his debut against the New York Red Bulls). A noticeably skillful and entertaining player from the moment he stepped on the pitch for the Black-and-Red, he understandably looks more comfortable in the squad a month later. His dribbling and passing are enough to spark an attack on their own, but his intelligence in positioning and knowing when and how to retain possession are another enormous strength. Scoring his first goal for D.C. in their most recent match against Atlanta United will surely help boost his confidence as well, which is huge for a creative attacking player like him.
Watch out for: John Tolkin
The young left back has been one of the Red Bull’s more consistent performers this season and was even featured in this year’s MLS All-Star team. A defensively sound player adept in tackling and intercepting the ball, Tolkin is a more defensive fullback. However, he also has the second-highest number of goal contributions in the league for the Red Bulls this season with five. Four of those being assists, his only goal was the 88th minute winner against D.C. United in their previous meeting.
D.C. United Availability:
Out: Martin Rodriguez (long-term knee), Mohanad Jeahze (long-term ankle), Tyler Miller (season-ending shoulder)
New York Red Bulls Availability:
Out: Wiki Carmona (illness), Serge Ngoma (hamstring), Lewis Morgan (hip), Dante Vanzeir (back)
Questionable: Steven Sserwadda (knee)
Location: Audi Field, Washington, D.C.
Kickoff Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Referee: Alex Chilowicz
Available streaming: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV