The Philadelphia Union need a win against their rivals DC United Saturday afternoon in Chester.
At this point in the season, there is no such thing as a “must-win,” but this is as close as it gets for a Union team that has only 5 points after 6 matches. Fortunately, this week the Boys in Blue take on DC United, a team that also has experienced a slow start to their season. DCU (1-3-2) has an identical record as the U and is also desperate for a win.
The Union’s offense has been generating chances, but they’ve lacked the finishing touch. They’ve only scored 3 goals so far, the least in Major League Soccer. David Accam has shown his speed, but he cannot seem to get a ball on target. C.J. Sapong has missed some easy looks. It’s so bad that head coach Jim Curtin was asked if he was considering benching the two during his Wednesday press conference. The hope that Bořek Dočkal would be the number 10 playmaker the Union have needed since Tranquillo Barnetta left hasn’t panned out so far. Curtin said, “We know that our entire attacking group is one that has a lot of quality and I’m still confident they’ll break out soon.” Well, it better be sooner than later, because the Union are digging themselves into a hole that could take them the rest of the season to climb out of.
The Union have their issues on defense too, relying on the youngest back line currently playing in MLS. Matt Real, Mark McKenzie, and Auston Trusty have shown flashes of talent, but their inexperience has cost the Union at times. The team will benefit from Jack Elliott’s return from injury, but youth will remain the order of the day as Fabinho and Richie Marquez are both listed as out for this match on the MLS injury report. Fabinho has been back to training and Curtin has said he could be included in the matchday 18. It wouldn’t be surprising to see recently signed Cameroonian defender Olivier Mbaizo get some minutes, and perhaps even a start.
While DC United’s attempts to score goals haven’t been quite as futile as the Union’s, DCU have also struggled to put the ball in the back of the net. They may be feeling a little bit more confident, though, after beating Columbus Crew 1-0 last week. The Boys in Blue will need to keep an eye on Union killer Darren Mattocks, but they’ll catch a break as midfielder Paul Arriola will be sitting this one out due to a red card suspension. Defensive midfielder Junior Moreno will also be out with a hamstring injury.
The Black and Red also have some drama at goalkeeper. David Ousted began the season as the starter, but when he missed the Columbus match with a foot injury, Steve Clark took over and gave a masterful performance. DCU head coach Ben Olson says he could flip a coin over who will start, and we won’t know until game time which one will be in between the pipes.
If you aren’t going to watch in person, note that this week’s match will be aired on Unimas. And it won’t be streamed at ESPN+ (the new home of MLS Live). If you are like me and don’t get Unimas at home, you can catch the English stream on Twitter.
With DC United a little beat up, and the Union playing at home, I like their chances to finally get another win. Prediction: Union 1, DC United 0