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After two weeks off for the international break, D.C. United are back in action on Sunday afternoon as they travel cross-country to take on the Portland Timbers. A win could see the Black-and-Red vault back into fourth place in the Eastern Conference after they were surpassed midweek by Toronto FC, who moved into fourth on the goal differential tiebreaker. Both teams currently occupy a playoff spot at the moment but need a win to cement their standing.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 PM ET and the game will be shown on ESPN.
In their last MLS outing back on August 31, United ended a three-game losing streak in a big way, defeating the Montreal Impact 3-0 on the road. With Wayne Rooney suspended, recent signing Ola Kamara stepped up for the Black-and-Red, scoring his second and third goals for the club in the first half, with Paul Arriola adding the other goal in a first half that decided the game.
United held on strong in the second half, earning a win against a Montreal team that could have jumped them in the standings with a victory. It was just the third win in 12 games for United but may have been the result that helps them get back in gear, with four games left before the start of the playoffs.
The team will be with the services of Rooney once again, after his red card against the New York Red Bulls on August 21. After being sent off early on for violent conduct, two games were added on to the striker's absence; it was his second red card of the season. Rooney, who leads the team in goals and assists this year, did play in the friendly against Mexican side Puebla on September 4 before the club broke away for a break last weekend.
During that same weekend, the Timbers beat Sporting Kansas City with a late stoppage-time goal to pick up their second consecutive win. What seemed destined to be a loss after an unusual goal from Benny Feilhaber was turned into three points late on, as Jeremy Ebobisee scored in the 83rd minute, and then Brian Fernandez supplied the winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
The win propelled the Timbers back into a playoff spot in a tight Western Conference race. The Timbers currently occupy sixth place in the West, but they could move as high as third today with a win, or fall as far down as eighth, depending on their result against United and how several other teams fare on Sunday.
For the visiting side, there are a couple of question marks about how the side might line up for their first visit to Providence Park since October 2017, when they lost 4-0 on the way to missing the playoffs. Ben Olsen has not been starting Luciano Acosta lately and has to decide whether or not he'll try to use a two striker formation once again, as he did in the August loss to the New York Red Bulls.
Also, in the game against the Impact, Olsen elected to sit Leonardo Jara, the Argentine right back who has occupied that position the entire year for the Black-and-Red. The surprising starter in that role was Russell Canouse, who was returning for his first game since late July when he suffered a collapsed lung against the Chicago Fire.
It was the first time that Canouse had played there for United since his arrival back in August 2017. In his absence, recent pickup Felipe Martins had been partnering Junior Moreno in midfield and kept that role against the Impact. Felipe was picked up late in the transfer window due to Canouse, Moreno, and Chris Durkin all being unavailable, but has stepped in well for the Black-and-Red, helping him keep his spot despite the return of Canouse.
D.C. United Predicted XI (4-4-2): Bill Hamid, Joseph Mora, Steven Birnbaum, Frederic Brillant, Russell Canouse, Lucas Rodriguez, Junior Moreno, Felipe Martins, Paul Arriola, Wayne Rooney, Ola Kamara