Two weeks ago, D.C. United was coming off of their most impressive win of the season, while most of the chatter about the Philadelphia Union involved talk of a coach and/or GM being fired due to a winless run that stretched back to August of last year. However, following a dire 1-0 home loss for United and a breakout 3-0 home win for the Union, the pressure is now squarely on the Black-and-Red to start winning their home games on a regular basis, and to bank points before a tough early summer slate.
Key player: Patrick Mullins
Last week’s first half underlined the problems that United’s attack will run into without a back-to-goal presence, particularly at home. Most teams don’t go on the road and leave enough room for you to play forwards that only run the channels, and United hasn’t been able to force that sort of game on their opponents this year.
As such, United’s attack improved once Mullins came on at halftime. Sure, that’s a very low bar to clear after an intensely irritating opening 45 minutes, but United was at least starting to do some things that could lead to real chances. That’s the approach they’re going to need against the Union, who out of necessity have had to really focus on their defensive shape first and foremost. United most likely won’t get a wide open game out of this one, which means finding Mullins and letting him hold play up to involve the midfield is the most viable way to get a much-needed win.
Location: Robert F. Kennedy Stadium (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4141) - Bill Hamid; Sean Franklin/Chris Odoi-Atsem/Chris Korb, Steve Birnbaum/Kofi Opare, Bobby Boswell, Taylor Kemp; Jared Jeffrey; Lloyd Sam, Ian Harkes, Luciano Acosta, Sebastien Le Toux/Lamar Neagle; Patrick Mullins
Bench: Travis Worra, Opare/Birnbaum, Marcelo Sarvas, Neagle/Le Toux, Jose Ortiz, and two other guys
There’s a lot of uncertainty here. Franklin isn’t on the injury report, but he reportedly missed at least one day of training to manage a hamstring strain. Birnbaum remains questionable, and it’s hard to say who Ben Olsen will start on the left wing (let’s assume Mullins will start).
As such, the “two other guys” above could be any of Odoi-Atsem, Korb, Jalen Robinson, or Chris Durkin (who is back from US under-17 duty).
Projected Philadelphia Union starting 11: (4231) - Andre Blake; Raymon Gaddis/Keegan Rosenberry, Jack Elliott, Oguchi Onyewu/Richie Marquez, Fabinho; Haris Medunjanin, Warren Creavalle/Alejandro Bedoya; Chris Pontius, Bedoya/Adam Najem/Roland Alberg, Fafa Picault; CJ Sapong
There’s uncertainty here too. Gaddis has pushed Rosenberry to the bench, but missed at least two days of training this week after needing a sub last week. Normal starter Marquez was out last week due to an illness, but after a shutout win, does Jim Curtin bring him back in?
Alberg is questionable with a quad strain, which has a domino effect. Curtin could choose rookie Adam Najem (19 total pro minutes, and usually not even in the gameday 18 for Philly) or push Bedoya back into a role he clearly doesn’t do well in. That’s the more defensively sound thing to do, and it would mean bringing Creavalle in as a ball-winner (homegrown player Derrick Jones is away with the US under-20s).
Referee: Chris Penso
Available TV: NewsChannel 8 and regional affiliates (check the link for the over-the-air alternate channel in your area).
Available streaming: MLS Live for those outside the blackout radius
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: Earlier this week, we checked in at training to find various players in varying states of recovery from injury. Filibuster brought Eugene Rupinski from The Brotherly Game on to talk about the Union. Our predictions pretty much runs the gamut, so we don’t really know what’s going to happen today.
What are you drinking?: I will be watching the Spirit game from 4-6pm somewhere near RFK (probably Eastern Market), so most likely it’ll be whatever’s available at the place with wifi. I’m hoping there will be space at Peregrine Espresso, but it could also be Port City Java, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, so clearly I’m leaning towards coffee.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos bounceback performance!