Sandwiched between two matches with the New Jersey Red Bulls, the Philadelphia Union (4-7-4, 16 points. 11th Place Eastern Division) face another near must-win against another Eastern Division rival in DC United (5-8-3, 18 points, 9th Place).
The teams are dead even all time in MLS play, 8-8-4. The U are 6-3-0 at Talen Energy Stadium, and have not lost to DC here since 5/10/14.
The last match-up was a memorable 4-0 win by the Union in their final regular season visit to RFK Stadium, in which three Philly players scored their initial MLS goals.
This will be the last time they meet in 2017, barring playoff runs.
Last Time Out:
The Union are coming off a disheartening top layer of the Red Bull sandwich, a 2-0 MLS defeat by New Jersey last Sunday (the bottom half being a US Open Cup Round of 16 Match 8:00 PM Wednesday in NJ) that was evenly played until a Red card to Derrick Jones early in the second half. That loss earned them a three game losing streak.
DC United’s last match was a 2-1 home win versus expansion Atlanta United FC just this past Wednesday, which ended a three game winless streak.
Possible Union Starting XI: 4-2-3-1
GK Andre Blake, D’s Ray Gaddis, Jack Elliott, Oguchi Oyenwu, Fabinho, MF’s Warren Creavalle, Haris Medunjanin, Chris Pontius, Ilsinho, Fafa Picault, F CJ Sapong
Possible DC United Starting XI: 4-1-4-1
GK Bill Hamid, D’s Taylor Kemp, Kofi Opare, Steve Birnbaum, Chris Korb, MF’s Jared Jeffrey, Patrick Nyarko, Luciano Acosta, Ian Harkes, Lloyd Sam, F Jose Ortiz
DC United Player to Watch: Luciano Acosta
Acosta has a team high 10 SOG on 22 shots overall, and four goals, three of which have been game winners. His importance to the team’s chances is pretty evident in that DC has not lost a match when he dented the score sheet since 2016, when he joined the team.
Union Player to Watch: Chris Pontius
While still looking for his first goal, Pontius continues to lead the team with 6 assists, a career tying high. He came close a few times against the Red Bulls, and as usual playing against his former team, his first seven seasons in MLS, can be a boost.
I see this one as a tightly marked, low scoring affair.
“We know them very well and they know us very well,” DC United head coach Ben Olsen said. “It’s always a physical matchup. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The real key to this game may be two of the best goalies in the league in Blake and Hamid. DC’s keeper is leading the league with 70 saves on 94 shots, ten ahead of Joe Bendik of Orlando City SC. Blakes five Clean Sheets is tied for third in MLS, and one shy of his career high. Each goalie has won an MLS Goalie of the year award, Blake last season and Hamid in 2014.
I believe the extra rest and the home crowd stoked by seeing a rival for the only time this season, will give the Union an edge, on the way to a 1-Nil victory.