United open up their seven-game homestand against Minnesota United FC with a chance to continue their momentum and continue their pursuit of the East's final playoff spot.
With only five points separating the Black-and-Red from the sixth-place Montreal Impact, every home match is an opportunity to seize control of the race to put United in the postseason. The homestand is a huge opportunity, and everyone in the locker room realizes it.
“It is great to be back home and to have so many games at home," Paul Arriola said. "It gives an extra boost of confidence to the team, knowing that you are able to play at home and not have to deal with the travel. Obviously, so far we have done pretty well since opening up Audi Field. I think the key for us, myself and everyone in the locker room, is to go one game at a time.”
Arriola’s return from the U.S. Men’s National Team has come at a key time for United, who had to deal with several absences in their game against NYCFC last Saturday. The Black-and-Red will still be without a number of familiar faces against Minnesota, but Arriola and forward Darren Mattocks’ returns from international duty will provide an immediate boost.
United will be facing a Minnesota squad dealing with their own absences as well. Rasmus Schuller (Finland) and Romario Ibarra (Ecuador) will be away on international duty, while the Loons will also be without defenders Michael Boxall and Francisco Calvo, who are both serving yellow card suspensions.
The visitors will have Darwin Quintero ready to go, though, and the Colombian forward has been the key to the Loons offense since transferring from Liga MX giant Club América and signing as Minnesota's first Designated Player on March 31.
Quintero leads Minnesota in goals (10) and assists (9) while serving as the focal point of their attack. Through six matches in July, Quintero scored six goals and led Minnesota to a 4-2-0 record. The Loons have slowed down since then, though, and enter Wednesday’s match winless in their last five games.
United, meanwhile, have set themselves up for a run after drawing in the Bronx last Saturday. Arriola's return in particular will give the Black-and-Red added pace and work rate come Wednesday. The midfielder has done everything asked of him lately, including making an emergency start at right back against Atlanta United, and his hard work paid off with his call-up to the National Team.
Now that the midfielder has returned to the District, he notes that the extra bit of confidence will serve as fuel in the playoff push—fuel that he hopes will lead to more goals and assists during the crucial stretch.
“For me, it is always nice to go with the national team to get experience and play against a team like Brazil and come back with a lot of confidence,” Arriola said. “Confidence that I am doing the right things to earn myself a call-up in the first place. The confidence and leadership that goes in to being a national team player, I think I can bring back to D.C. and obviously try and continue my form and the team’s form as well.”
Arriola and the Black-and-Red secured a huge 3-1 win over Atlanta United in their last match at Audi Field, and now focus on replicating their success throughout the coming homestand, starting with Minnesota United on Wednesday.