If familiarity breeds contempt, it should be no surprise that matters tend to get heated when D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union take the field opposite one another. In addition to being separated by a mere 140 miles away, tomorrow will mark the fifth time the Black-and-Red have seen the Zolos (is anybody still calling the Union that?) in 2013 - they've already met twice in preseason (which included Dwayne De Rosario's infamous headbutt on former teammate Danny Cruz), once in league play and once in the US Open Cup. And if MLSsoccer.com is to be believed, the Union will be coming into this one looking for a fight.
Thankfully, things are more civil between us bloggers. I exchanged a few questions with Scott Kessler up at our sister site The Brotherly Game to preview tomorrow's match up. Here's what Scott had to say.
Questions for The Brotherly Game
1. What's up with Jack Mac? After starting the season on fire, he hasn't scored in several games for Philly. What gives?
A lack of in game play during the Gold Cup, increased defensive attention and the continued mediocrity of the offense (read: midfield) overall. It's hard to sustain the success he had prior to the Gold Cup after returning cold and unused, only to find his service still wanting.
McInerney is a poacher's poacher. He's a quintessential opportunist. Once in a while - like against United earlier in the year - he'll make his iwn chance happen off of a superb dribble, but for the most part he succeeds off of defensive miscues or quality runs off of at least decent balls into the box.
He's going to find his form again, but it means that Hackworth will need to rethink his tactics... which he needs to do anyway.
2. The Union might have a growing claim on the "Surprise of the Year" mantle in the Eastern Conference, as they currently sit inside the playoff spots. How do you rate Philly's playoff chances as we head into the home stretch?
They're ahead of a few teams right now by between one and five points, but they've already played 23 times and a bunch of teams have games in hand against them. It's conceivable that the Union could fall out of the playoff picture with a loss to DC.
I'd put their playoff chances at low. While they've surprised by snatching unwarranted victories all year, the Union simply aren't that good. I said during the preseason that the team had the talent to be good, but most likely would miss the playoffs, but could possibly break in with a wildcard spot. I'm holding to that prediction
3. With D.C. United just one win away from Trophy No. 13 in the U.S. Open Cup - the final is Oct. 1 at Real Salt Lake - how worried are you that we at Black and Red United are going to win the bet and the chance to take over Brotherly Game for a day?
I wasn't that worried before this week, but now I am. Bully on me, as the British would say.
It's too bad the final is in Salt Lake. I'd have been able to get down to DC if United were hosting and could have either gloated in person or handed over the figurative keys to BG.
Let's be honest with ourselves: neither of us expected the bet to be so close to being completed this year.
Questions for B&RU
1. What has worked so well for United since these last two met? It's almost like a completely different team.
New blood. No, literally: I have it on good authority that along with Luis Silva, Toronto sent down some blood transfusion equipment that we used to put a younger man's blood into Dwayne De Rosario's veins and... okay, running that metaphor into the ground got a bit dark, didn't it?
It really is the new faces that have arrived in the last month. Not just Silva, but former US youth internationals Conor Doyle and Jared Jeffrey have upped the ante in all of Ben Olsen's favorite departments. They're more technical than the average United player, and their respective work rates are through the roof. The combined effect has been a rejuvenation of the locker room, increased competition in training, and an unbelievable boost of confidence on the field.
2. DDR and Pontius both have had step backs from last season. How important is it for them to get back to 2012 form before the playoffs?
Playoffs? Playoffs!? Even with United all but mathematically eliminated from the MLS postseason this year, it is still important for DeRo and Pontius to get back to the form that saw the team take second place in the Eastern Conference last year. D.C. will have eight games to perfect things for the US Open Cup Final at Real Salt Lake. Getting ready for that game is the first, second and third priority for United the rest of the season. As we know, RSL is a much stronger club than Chicago this year, especially at the altitude of Rio Tinto Stadium. United's big names will have to be at their best, as will the new guys, for the Black-and-Red to have anything more than a prayer on the road against the league leaders.
It's really too soon to tell. Hamid joined Johnson (who's mistake on Wednesday, I'd like to point out, directly led to DeRo's game winning goal in the USOC semifinal) at the Gold Cup and - as is Concacaf's way - dressed along with Johnson and Rimando for every one of the USMNT's games in the tournament. But we haven't seen him on the field yet since he returned to the squad from national team duty. Ben Olsen seems to have named Joe Willis our Open Cup starter, and in preparation for Wednesday's big semifinal, Benny gave Willis the nod in our last league game against Montreal. So we haven't yet seen Hamid on the field since the end of the Gold Cup (or the beginning, for that matter). That said, Hamid has historically responded well to call ups from Juergen Klinsmann, whether or not he's actually seen playing time for the Yanks. Here's hoping he takes another step now that he's gotten to spend a solid month training under Kasey Keller & Co.
United's got some guys coming back from injuries, some with injury scares (potential concussion for Luis Silva, who did not practice on Friday), but I still think we'll see Olsen's recently preferred 4-4-1-1 - Bill Hamid; Chris Korb, Dejan Jakovic, Daniel Woolard, James Riley; Nick DeLeon, Jared Jeffrey, Perry Kitchen, Chris Pontius (or possibly Kyle Porter, if Pontius isn't fully fit); Dwayne De Rosario; Conor Doyle.
More from Black And Red United:
- D.C. United vs. Philadelphia Union lineup: Open Cup afterglow
- Let's Talk About the Midfield - Jared Jeffrey vs. John Thorrington
- The Last Word: D.C. United's Run to the Cup Continues!
- D.C. UNITED WILL PLAY FOR A TROPHY! IN 2013!! D.C. beat the Chicago Fire to advance to the 100th U.S. Open Cup Final
- U.S. Open Cup Semifinal - Chicago Fire vs. D.C. United: schedule, streaming, preview, projected lineup, prediction, and live thread