HTiOT: Oh, hey, look, it's you guys again, you guys and Chris Rolfe. Rolfe's cannily avoided playing against the Fire again - well done, Chris! Who should we look at to provide the ideas and incisiveness that sometimes go missing for DC United without Rolfe in the lineup?
BRU (Ben Bromley): Well, according to Ben Olsen there is the possibility that Fabian Espindola will play in this game; if that is true, that would be an amazing piece of recovery, so I don't quite believe it. However, without Rolfe, Espindola, or Luis Silva, the creative load has to be spread between Chris Pontius, Nick DeLeon, and the fullbacks; that is a steep dropoff. Look for Perry Kitchen to get more involved in the attack as well if Rolfe is out, because he has shown that when he wants to he can be an efficient part of the attack.
HT: DC famously acquired Kofi Opare from LA at a cut rate in a hurried deal made to clear the way for the Galaxy to acquire Sacha Kljestan - which never happened, despite the Opare deal going through. How important was the acquisition of Opare to DC's fortunes this year? What does Opare bring in partnership with Bobby Boswell?
BRU: Kofi Opare stepped right in and has partnered Bobby Boswell as well as Steve Birnbaum did last year. He is the physical presence next to Boswell's more cerebral center back, and except for one game has been excellent. Steve Birnbaum replaced him for the last game, so I'm not sure which way Ben Olsen is going to go.
The fleecing that Dave Kasper and the team perpetrated on the Galaxy to get Opare was a thing of beauty. He is a young, cheap, and talented player who has been key to United's early success in the group stage of the CCL last year and allowed the team to seamlessly switch him in this year.
HT: In terms of roster management, how is the club expected to handle Eddie Johnson's medically-dictated retirement? A DP slot, a lot of cap space, and a target-striker shaped hole in the roster means ... ?
BRU: There are two first priorities in the post EJ world, and that is an extension for Bill Hamid and an extension for Perry Kitchen. Losing either of those players would be a big loss for United, and luckily they've already re-signed Bill Hamid to a long-term contract, keeping him with United for at least one more year. The team has started talks with Perry Kitchen's agent, so we will see where the things go from there.
A good target striker is probably something United will need at some point. Espindola fills that role when he's on the field, but after that United have a lot of support strikers in Luis Silva, Chris Rolfe, Facundo Coria. Jairo Arrieta is doing well enough, but he is not the level of striker that Eddie Johnson was.
Predicted lineup: Bill Hamid; Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, Chris Korb; Miguel Aguilar, Markus Halsti, Perry Kitchen, Nick DeLeon; Chris Pontius, Fabian Espindola
Score prediction: 2-1 D.C. United
The other side of our exchange, where I answer questions posed by Ben, will be posted on Black & Red United.