With two important matches in a three day span, first an important league tie against Vancouver Whitecaps, then the US Open Cup Final against DC United — but with the latter undoubtedly taking precedence over the former — Jason Kreis and his coaching staff will have more than their work cut out for them.
This is a coaching nightmare: On one hand, if we completely sacrifice the Whitecaps match, we risk being left clawing for a playoff spot — hardly an ideal spot for a club of our stature. On the other, if we focus on the league tie first, we risk sacrificing a trophy, and that's even further from ideal. If we fail to prepare properly for either, we risk losing both and having our season spiral out of control. That's even worse.
With that in mind — that it's a coaching nightmare and full of difficult decisions — here's my take, which surely comes with all the insight being a blogger brings. Which is to say, very little.
Saturday v Vancouver Whitecaps
Goalkeeper: Jeff Attinella. Give Attinella a shot, leave Rimando for the big one.
Defense: Tony Beltran, Brandon McDonald, Aaron Maund, Abdoulie Mansally. Beltran adds a little veteran experience and is certainly fit enough for the turnaround, while McDonald and Maund form the backline. It's a little risky, admittedly. Mansally has been in good form and deserves minutes, and it's hard to see him earning more beyond something like this.
Midfield: Yordany Alvarez, Cole Grossman, Khari Stephenson, Sebastian Velasquez. Yeah, I really just listed off the four midfielders closest to being starters — what of it? The other option I could see might be Lovel Palmer in for Stephenson, but mostly, I think that's just my desire to see a little more Lovel Palmer. He's nice. Also, Velasquez at the top of the diamond could quiet some of those complaining about his lack of playing time. A full midfield bench would prove advantageous should the going get unusually tough.
Forwards: Olmes Garcia, Devon Sandoval. This was perhaps the toughest to choose, but given we have substitute options, I'm confident here. Garcia could play 60 minutes if necessary, and Sandoval would get another important run-out for his development. Perhaps we could throw Benji Lopez on the bench, as it would be nice to see him.
Tuesday v DC United, US Open Cup final
Goalkeeper: Nick Rimando. Surprise! Let him beat his old team. Maybe he'll even score a goal.
Defense: Tony Beltran, Carlos Salcedo, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert. This is ostensibly our first-choice setup, and it affords us the best flexibility. Salcedo would get his first chance to show his stuff on the metaphorical big stage, Borchers would get a chance to redeem himself for his recent errors. Wingert and Beltran are simply our best options. Some might call for Brandon McDonald to start this one, but he's cup-tied, having previously played in the competition this year with DC United.
Midfield: Kyle Beckerman, Luis Gil, Ned Grabavoy, Javier Morales. As first choice as you get, this one. Gil has shown more than the other midfielders vying for his spot, particularly in his ability to shuttle back and forth between attack and defense. Grabavoy — well, yeah. How do you not start Grabavoy? And Javier Morales is undoubted in his ability to impact the match. We've not mentioned Kyle Beckerman, and I'm not sure you need to.
Forwards: Alvaro Saborio, Joao Plata. A return to greatness for us with Saborio back in the side? Perhaps a fantastic performance would go some way to mitigate the impact his lack of playing time has had on our side.