Following four consecutive Western Conference matchups, D.C. United get set for their first Wednesday night game of the year, taking on defending MLS Cup champions Toronto FC at BMO Field at 8 PM ET. This is the Black-and-Red's final match before the World Cup break, which will see the District's team rest from Major League Soccer action until they travel north to take on the New England Revolution on June 30.
United's showdown with the Reds was originally scheduled for April 7, but the match date was adjusted due to Toronto's Champions League schedule. Despite the rocky start to the season, Toronto enter Wednesday coming off of a 2-0 road victory, and mostly at full strength. The Reds bested the Union in Philadelphia on June 8, and have steadily returned to showing their prowess after falling short of the Champions League title earlier this year.
One key to Toronto's recent improvements has been quick starts. Much like D.C., Toronto have been determined to get out of the gates fiery and set the tone for the match by striking first. United have scored in less than ten minutes in numerous matches this season, while the Reds struck first in their last two matches in Columbus and Philadelphia. Both sides have demonstrated their resolve to start games with speed, aggression, and a high press, which could make for an interesting first 15 minutes on Wednesday night. Should D.C. and Toronto each remain devoted to striking first, the Eastern Conference meeting has the potential to turn into a wide open, box-to-box flurry of action.
With a heating up, but arguably not peak, Toronto side on deck for Wednesday, the Black-and-Red will need to find a way to leave Canada with at least one—if not all three—point(s). Defensive highs and lows have challenged United throughout their road trip, and much of the Black-and-Red's success will depend on their ability to remain in synch and disciplined for an entire 90 minutes in order to keep the likes of Sebastian Giovinco and Jonathan Osorio at bay.
Argentine playmaker Luciano Acosta will also need to bring his best to Toronto, as so much of United's top attacking moments flow through the midfielder. When Acosta is on, he's on, using his small stature and impressive dribbling ability to weave into the box and beat his defenders, but also threading cheeky passes through to Darren Mattocks, Paul Arriola, Yamil Asad, and Zoltán Stieber, setting his teammates up for the best chance to score possible. D.C.'s offensive production gets trickier when Acosta is unable to find his rhythm, causing the Black-and-Red to lose a significant amount of the creative energy and spark that can make them so dangerous in the final third. When the attack is running through Acosta, expect good things to come for United.
With the July 14 opener of Audi Field looming on the horizon, the Black-and-Red continue to push for as many points as possible from their extensive road travels. Tune in to NewsChannel 8 and CW Richmond at 7:30 PM ET on Wednesday to watch as United battle to escape Canada with additional points to their name.