The first game of Hernán Losada’s tenure sees a perennial contender in the East come to the District to face the Black-and-Red
D.C. United is looking to start the Hernán Losada era off with a win today as they kick off the 2021 MLS season against NYCFC. After an offseason full of changes to the coaching staff, front office, and roster, United is hoping to prove that they’re a more formidable side than they’ve been in the last couple of seasons.
The first step on that path sees New York City FC come to the District. The Pigeons have been one of the most consistently successful teams in the Eastern Conference, and though there are signs that they may be in slight decline this year, they still have some elite MLS players and promising youngsters driving them forward.
In other words, the Black-and-Red are getting a real test right away.
Key player: Edison Flores
There are a ton of options here, but the question marks up top (we’ll talk about that in a moment) and injuries elsewhere have left us thinking that the biggest names has to carry United for the time being. Flores is one of those names, and with United playing a more well-defined and more aggressive system, the stage is set.
Last year was obviously not good for Flores, but it’s fair to say that due to a wide range of on- and off-field issues, he was not set up to succeed. So give him a mulligan for 2020? Sure, but you only get the one mulligan. Flores needs to be a standout for United to punch above their weight, and that starts today.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (3421) – Chris Seitz; Brendan Hines-Ike, Frederic Brillant, Donovan Pines; Julian Gressel, Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, Joseph Mora; Edison Flores, Yamil Asad; Erik Sorga
Bench: Jon Kempin, Tony Alfaro, Jacob Greene, Moses Nyeman, Griffin Yow, Adrien Perez, Kimarni Smith, Nigel Robertha, Ola Kamara
Let’s start with the starters: The only serious question mark is at the no. 9, where Sorga may be in line for a start after Kamara apparently became questionable for this one due to a minor knock. Robertha is ready to go and should be fit due to the Bulgarian season, but Losada told media they wanted to let him acclimate to the team’s approach right now. Smith (who lead the team in scoring during the preseason) and Perez are also options.
United has listed all of the following players on the “Player Availability List” that MLS has brought in this season: Paul Arriola, Steven Birnbaum, Michael DeShields, Bill Hamid, Felipe Martins, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Kevin Paredes, and Yordy Reyna. As you’ve probably figured out, the “Player Availability List” is actually a list of who is not available rather than who is. #MLSisBack, baby!
As such, United has just 22 players that could even possibly be available for Losada to list in his first gameday 20-man squad. Compounding that, Losada said that Jovanny Bolivar is “a couple of months” from being ready, and the last update we have on Jacob Greene involves two different knocks. Andy Najar, meanwhile, is being built up cautiously, so it seems iffy that he’ll play much (and it would not be shocking if he isn’t in uniform just yet).
Projected NYCFC starting 11: (4231) – Sean Johnson; Anton Tinnerholm, Maxime Chanot, Alexander Callens, Gudmundur Thórarinsson; James Sands, Keaton Parks; Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Maxi Moralez, Andreas Jasson; Valentin Castellanos
Ronny Deila has six absentees of his own, including Heber (ACL rehab) and new attacking signing Thiago Andrade (whose visa hasn’t arrived in time for today’s game). On the other hand, his starting eleven is among the easiest to guess in MLS; after all, this is the coach who said that his depth players simply aren’t good enough.
With left back Malte Amundsen only getting into the US a week ago, Thórarinsson is the probable starter there, while young stars Sands and Parks will very likely keep former USMNT defensive midfielder Alfredo Morales on the bench. Jesus Medina is also an option to potentially start over Jasson, but that’s about it.
Referee: Ted Unkel
Available TV: NBC Sports Washington +, TeleXitos. Yes, folks, United is back on TV, and on channels where you can see the game in HD.
For more on the geofence and where to find the game on TV or online, check out our DCU how to watch guide.
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: Our season preview covers all the basics, and the latest episode of Filibuster focused on this game in particular. There’s still time to join our MLS Fantasy leagues, and if you want to know what’s up with the Pigeons, check out this preview from Hudson River Blue.
Come back to the site later this morning, where we’ve got more news to cover that we didn’t have time to get to yesterday.
What are you drinking?: Some things change, but some things remain the same: cold brew coffee on the drive in, water in the press box.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos United!
Black and Red United has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Black and Red United and Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our guiding principles.