Potential Starters: Tyler Miller, Chris Durkin, Brendan Hines-Ike, Derrick Williams, Steven Birnbaum, Pedro Santos, Russell Canouse, Mateusz Klich, Gabriel Pirani, Yamil Asad, Christian Benteke
Subs: Alex Bono, Donovan Pines, Ruan, Eric Davis, Jackson Hopkins, Ted Ku-DiPietro, Cristian Dájome, Eric Hurtado, Jose Fajardo
Captain: Steven Birnbaum
Potential Starters: Andre Blake; Kai Wagner, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Nathan Harriel, Jesus Bueno, Jack McGlynn, Jose Martinez, Daniel Gazdag, Mikael Uhre, Julian's Carranza
Subs: Joe Bendik; Damion Lowe, Olivier Mbaizo, Matt Real, Richard Odada, Leon Flach, Jeremy Raffanello, Jaoquin Torres, Chris Donovan, Quinn SullivanAlejandro Bedoya, Tai Baribo
DC United - Wayne Rooney
DC’s Gaffer has not only improved the play on the field, but has improved the sense of camaraderie and teamwork. Rooney continues to promote the idea of playing with courage and on the front foot, yet at the same time patience and calmness on the ball, so they can maintain control of the game. Through the last month his coaching has begun to pay dividends in both scoring and defense. This has allowed Rooney’s team to comeback from last match’s fluke goal, and the confidence to seek a fifth straight win in league play tonight.
Philadelphia Union - Jim Curtin
The Philadelphia Union Head Coach is one of the best American coaches in MLS. Curtin was a player in MLS, drafted by the Chicago Fire in the 2001 MLS Super Draft. He played in the league till being waived by Chivas USA just prior to the 2010 season.
Curtin returned to the Philadelphia area and began working with the newly formed Philadelphia Union as a coach in their academy system. He did that until November 2012, when Curtin was promoted to assistant coach for the Philadelphia Union under John Hackworth. When Hackworth was fired during the 2014 season, Curtin was named interim coach. Curtin showed a great propensity for organizing his teams, and a willingness to play young players who brought both hunger and energy into the game. The Union turned around their season and on November 7, 2014, the Philadelphia Union announced that Curtin would be their permanent Head Coach.
Since being named Head Coach, Curtin has built Philadelphia into an Eastern Conference powerhouse. Each year they are in contention for Supporter’s Shield and a threat in the MLS Cup. At the same time they have become synonymous with developing young talented players and being a springboard for going to Europe and making USMNT rosters.
Keys to the Match:
Can DC get past Philadelphia?
DC United have played Philadelphia twice this season already, both times at Subaru Park. The first was MLS regular season, the second was as part of the League’s Cup. Both ended in 0-0 draws, with DC losing in the penalty shootout in the Cup’s match.
Both of these results are head and shoulders above last year when the Union humiliated the Black & Red both home and away, out scoring DC 13 to zero, so two draws is nothing to sneeze at, but United need every point they can, and it’s time to knock the Union boogeyman off their back.
How well does Pirani play? Gabriel Pirani, made his debut for the Black & Red last week as he started and played 79 minutes against the Red Bulls. The 21-year-old Brazilian played well and was the most dangerous player for United. He finished the match with pass completion of 87%, and showed a special creative prowess in the final third.
If Pirani can continue to integrate himself into the team, and create a partnership with Benteke, United has a chance.
Can Benteke get his scoring form back? Christian Benteke hasn’t scored for DC United since early June. This has to change for the Black & Red to have a chance. Part of this has been a lack of quality service. Benteke isn’t going to create his own shots, he needs teammates capable of creating opportunities for him. Gabriel Pirani looks like he could have that quality, but the team needs more. Hopefully Ted Ku-DiPietro can play for more minutes, as well as Andy Najar. Would not hate playing Pedro Santos in the double ten spot that Rooney has employed instead of Cristian Dájome, and starting Eric Davis at the Left Wingback.
Can DC handle the Union’s Press? The Black & Red have shown a vulnerability to being pressed, especially at the beginning of the game. Against the Red Bulls, United wasn’t able to get any rhythm because of the pressure. There were numerous clearances by defenders that either went out of bounds or worse directly to an opponent. Because of this United were unable to create many scoring opportunities.
Against the Union there’s a better than average chance that the Union will press. If DC is to get the win they must handle the pressure, and create shot opportunities. It would be helpful for DC to start on the front foot.
Can DC defend the set piece? The Union have a propensity for scoring off set piece plays. They are well drilled, have an abundance of height, and a lot of skill on the ball. It’s important for DC to stay focused on defense. The one goal they gave up to Nashville was down to a series of personal mistakes by individuals that led to the ultimate fluke goal. Philadelphia will pounce on any mistakes made by DC.
Things to Watch:
Offense - With Christian Benteke available the attack will go through him, with midfielders Durkin, Klitch and Pirani playing off of him. With Klich and Durkin, DC United has a strong starting Center Midfield, but they will be tested by the Union’s Midfield. To be successful they will have to use quick passes to break lines, and be able to dribble past defenders who can over-commit when pressing.
DC loves the cross, especially when Christian Benteke is in the box. They should resist the urge to cross the ball. Philadelphia is one of the best defensive teams, with two long Center Backs who play in front of one of the best Goalies in MLS. The best way to score will be to play to the feet of their offensive teammates and take shots from the top of the box.
Jose Fajardo, Jackson Hopkins and Cristian Dájome will make the bench, and it will be interesting to see if Ted Ku-Dipietro is seen as a starter or off the bench. Despite being the hero of Saturday’s match, he is nursing a knock.
Defense - The big question for the Black & Red is do they run out the same defense that was a stellar free kick away from earning a clean sheet? DC United allowed one goal versus the Red Bulls, but it truly was a perfect free kick with amazing bend. The Center Backs were solid, with Derrick Williams settling in nicely along Steven Birnbaum and Hines-Ike. Andy Najar will most likely start at Right Fullback as his ball control and passing are needed. There is a good chance Pedro Santos will start as the Left Back. Eric Davis could get the start, which would allow Santos to either come off the bench or play higher.
The way DC United chooses to defend is to be very patient and maintain their positional shape. They will press, but at specific times, when the moment is right. That will be important as the Union has a host of dangerous players. The Black & Red are well acquainted with their scoring ability.
The United defense have a good opportunity in this match but need to play disciplined soccer.
By the Numbers:
DC United have scored 32 goals for 12th in scoring
DC United’s 35 goals conceded rank 21st in the league
DC United’s goal differential of -3 is 18th in MLS
Christian Benteke has scored 8 goals and one assist (15th in league)
Mateusz Klich has 2 goals and 5 assists
Ted Ku-DiPietro has scored 3 goals and 1 assist
Donovan Pines has scored 3 goals
Tyler Miller has kept 6 clean sheets
Philadelphia has scored 39 goals in 11 games for 5th in MLS
Philadelphia has allowed 26 goals for 4th in MLS
Philadelphia’s +13 goal differential ranks 4th in MLS
Philadelphia’s Daniel Gazdag has 9 goals and 5 assists
Julian Carranza has 10 goals and 2 assists
Mikael Uhre has scored 7 goals and has 3 assists
Jose Martínez has 2 goals and 1 assist
1-0 victory at Audi Field as the Black & Red keep their playoff hopes alive.
How to Watch
Coverage: Apple MLS Season Pass on Apple TV
Start time 7:55
📻: 1190am, 101.1HD2, 104.7fm
🔊: Any Smart Speaker
📱: @iHeartRadio App
Written by: RJ Rolsen