Eleven days since their last game, D.C. United get back in action tonight in the U.S. Open Cup as they enter the cup competition in Round 4 against a familiar MLS side: the Philadelphia Union. The game takes place at Audi Field in Washington, D.C., and will be streamed on ESPN+.
With another two weeks before their next MLS game, United head coach Ben Olsen said this week that he plans to use the strongest squad possible that is available to him. However, the Black-and-Red will be without the services of Paul Arriola and Junior Moreno, both away for international tournaments. Chris Durkin is suspended for the game after picking up a red card last year against Orlando City, while the statuses of Bill Hamid and Russell Canouse is up in the air for the game tonight.
United are bolstered by the return of Joseph Mora, who missed two and a half months after breaking his jaw in late March against the Lions. Rookie defender Akeem Ward is also back from a quick layoff, while Donovan Pines is close to fully returning to training. However, the towering center back is not expected to be available against the Union.
However, there is a chance that Olsen will use Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta from the start, as United still search for their first silverware since their incredible run in the Open Cup back in 2013. Acosta ended the first half of the season in good form, scoring two goals in two games for United, giving the Argentine five tallies for the season.
Rooney arrived after United were eliminated from last year's competition. In other years, Rooney might not be used in this game, with United having to deal with a tight schedule with league games sandwiching the Open Cup. This year, though, the Gold Cup break might give Rooney a chance to go from the start on Wednesday night.
In England, Rooney won one FA Cup, in 2016 with Manchester United.
The visit from the Union will be just their second to United's new stadium at Buzzard Point. Last August, Philadelphia inflicted a 2-0 defeat to United, the last loss for the Black-and-Red for the 2018 season. The two proximity foes last met in the Open Cup in 2015, when the Union scored twice while down a man to beat United 2-1.
"It's always a brutal game. Physical," center back Steven Birnbaum said this week of the matchup against the Union. "They scratch and claw for these games. We're excited to get out there and play them. We're up for it."
The Union called up four players from the Bethlehem Steel to be part of the squad on Wednesday night. At the same time, the Chester side will be missing Auston Trusty and Brendan Aaronson, who are both at the camp for the U.S. U-23 team this week.
A win tonight for United would mean another Open Cup game before they return to MLS action on June 26 when they host Orlando City at Audi Field.
D.C. United Projected XI: Bill Hamid, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Steven Birnbaum, Jalen Robinson, Leonardo Jara, Russell Canouse, Chris McCann, Lucas Rodriguez, Luciano Acosta, Ulises Segura, Wayne Rooney