A week after facing off against an MLS original, D.C. United head to Ohio to take on the league's newest team, FC Cincinnati, in the first meeting between the two clubs. Last Friday, the Black-and-Red had to fight back for a 2-2 draw against the New England Revolution, giving them just one win in their past nine league games. Meanwhile, Cincinnati, still mired in last place in MLS in 2019, have reeled off two wins in a row.
Coverage for the game at Nippert Stadium begins at 8 PM ET and will be broadcast on ESPN.
For the second game in a row, United will be without the services of Luciano Acosta, who appealed his two-game suspension for landing on FC Dallas midfielder Paxton Pomykal on July 4. However, Acosta, who appealed through the player's union, had his suspension upheld this week, keeping the playmaker sidelined once again.
In his absence against the Revs, United head coach Ben Olsen opted to return to a three-center back look, giving Donovan Pines his first start since picking up a knee injury in May. However, United struggled early on adjusting to the formation and fell behind by two goals in the first half, courtesy of Teal Bunbury.
With Acosta suspended, United were boosted by the return of winger Paul Arriola, who had been away with the U.S. national team for the Concacaf Gold Cup. In his first game back, Arriola provided the assist, his first of the season, for Leonardo Jara's goal just before the break, helping United eventually earn a draw against the Revolution.
With the same group of players available on Thursday night, Olsen will likely once again use three center backs on the road against Cincinnati. United won two road games earlier in the season — at the Colorado Rapids and at the Columbus Crew — shortly after left back Joseph Mora suffered a broken jaw that sidelined him until late June.
Cincinnati started their inaugural MLS campaign with two wins, two draws, and two losses in their first six games, giving some hope to the newcomers. However, the club then endured a streak of 11 losses in 12 games, which signaled the end of Alan Koch's reign as manager of the club; 29-year-old Yoann Damet has guided the Orange and Blue since May 7, helping the team pick up two wins in their past two games.
That included a thrilling 3-2 win over the Houston Dynamo on July 6, in which Cincinnati raced out to a three-goal lead and then had to hold on late for their fourth win of the season. The Ohio club followed that up with a 2-1 win at the Chicago Fire, with Fanendo Adi scoring a late winner.
The trip to the Queen City kicks off a stretch of three consecutive road games for the Black-and-Red. On Sunday, United travel to Georgia to take on Atlanta United before taking on the Chicago Fire in Bridgeview, Illinois, on July 27. The return trip for Cincinnati to Audi Field comes on the last day of the regular season, October 6.
Atlanta's 5-0 win over the Dynamo on Wednesday night dropped D.C. into third place in the Eastern Conference. During the stretch of one win in nine games, with nine points picked up, United had been able to maintain second place in the conference behind the Philadelphia Union.
Predicted D.C. United lineup (3-4-2-1): Bill Hamid, Steven Birnbaum, Frederic Brillant, Donovan Pines, Joseph Mora, Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, Leonardo Jara, Lucas Rodriguez, Paul Arriola, Wayne Rooney