Today's game is not technically a game between MLS's best and worst teams, but it's pretty close. D.C. United sits atop the league standings, having gone eight straight games without a loss and equaling the club's best start to a season after ten games. The Philadelphia Union, meanwhile, have seen things go wrong in nearly every conceivable way. They are one point clear of last place, but that comes with the considerable caveat that the Montreal Impact have played just six league matches in 2015; the Union already have seven losses to go with their one win and three draws.
Obviously this should indicate that the Black-and-Red are heavy favorites against their nearest geographic rival. However, United-Union games over the years have had a strong tendency towards being tight, hard-fought contests decided by an odd goal on a set piece. Even United's 2010 and 2013 sides managed to give the Union a hard time, and those seasons were unmitigated disasters. Plus, this being MLS, bizarre results aren't actually all that bizarre. The margins between "good team" and "bad team" simply aren't that great, no matter what we might tell ourselves. A couple of bounces here or there for both clubs, and this could easily be a match between two mid-table teams in the East.
As such, United's depth and positive morale could be critical against a Union team that is desperate for anything to go right. Can DCU cope with the weight of expectation? We'll find out tonight.
D.C. United Projected Starting 11: The rotation should continue, though in a general sense teams don't need to rotate when they have that fourth day between games. Nonetheless, I expect some new faces in the midfield and up front. What I wouldn't expect are changes in the back. That means Bill Hamid - who has overcome an illness - will start in goal behind a back four of Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Kofi Opare, and Taylor Kemp. In the midfield, I think we'll see a debut for Markus Halsti, with Perry Kitchen - coming off of a spectacular showing mid-week - partnering him. On the flanks, look for Michael Farfan and Chris Pontius to line up on the right and left, respectively. Up top, I think we'll see Chris Rolfe and Jairo Arrieta.
Off the bench, I expect to see Luis Silva and Miguel Aguilar to both come on with 25-35 minutes to go. With Nick DeLeon perhaps trying to protect a tight hamstring from becoming a full-on strain, I think we'll see Conor Doyle come on in the late-going instead.
Match previews: Here's everything we put together for this one: A prediction of United's lineup as well as the same for Philly, our unanimous prediction of a win (uh oh), our questions for the good folks over at The Brotherly Game(who also predict a DCU win, so double that uh oh), and our preview from earlier today.
Elsewhere, Steve Goff's pre-game piece for The Washington Post finds the Black-and-Red trying to keep their eyes on the prize ahead of three straight road games. Back at TBG, their preview is an open letter demanding a turnaround that starts today.
What are you drinking: I was out for much of the day in the humidity, so I think a gin rickey is in order.
This is your place for pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.