The second-place Union (13-6-8, 45 pts) will take on fifth-place D.C. United (10-9-9, 39 pts) in Chester under the lights on Saturday night.
The match has major playoff implications for both teams. A D.C. win would see them jump to within three points of first place, while a loss would potentially threaten their playoff standing in the competitive East. A Union win would put them three points clear of Atlanta United FC and back in first in the East. A loss would not be as dire to the boys in blue, but with a first-round bye up for grabs, every point counts.
The Union won the previous matchup this year 5-1, as a red card from D.C. United midfielder Junior Moreno in the 40th minute opened the floodgates and saw the Union widen what was a 1-0 lead with four goals after it. Moreno was set off after hauling down Union striker Kacper Przybylko on a clear goal-scoring opportunity.
Saturday also marks the first Union Alumni night, which will feature appearances from the likes of fabled midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta and defender Danny Califf amongst a sea of other familiar names.
D.C. will be without international star striker Wayne Rooney, who was shown red in their midweek match and will be suspended for Saturday’s fixture. Rooney delivered a forearm to Red Bulls midfielder Cristian Casseras Jr’s face while they fought for position during a set piece and was sent off straightaway. United will also be without midfielders Russell Canouse (collapsed lung) and Chris Durkin (ankle), and defenders Oniel Fisher (knee surgery) and Chris Odoi-Atsem (hamstring).
The Union have two players who may not be available. Defender Olivier Mbaizo is experiencing left knee soreness and is listed as questionable, as is striker Sergio Santos (left knee meniscus).
D.C. is on short rest and without Wayne Rooney. I just can’t see them walking out of Fortress Talen with any points.
Union 2 – D.C. United 1