Updated: May 17
The Opponent: Philadelphia Union (5-4-2)
Starters: Andre Blake; Kai Wagner, Damion Lowe, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Olivier Mbaizo; Leon Flach, Jack McGlynn, Alejandro Bedoya; Daniel Gazdag; Julian Carranza
Subs: Joe Bendik; Nathan Harriel, Matt Real, Richard Odada, Andres Perea, Jeremy Raffanello, Jaoquin Torres, Chris Donovan
Captain: Alejandro Bedoya
Jesus Bueno (red card)
Jose Martinez (hamstring)
Starter: Tyler Miller, Victor Palsson, Derrick Williams, Donovan Pines, Ted Ku-DiPietro, Gaoussou Samaké, Mateusz Klich, Russell Canouse, Lewis O’Brien, Chris Durkin, Christian Benteke
Subs: Alex Bono, Matai Akinmboni, Brendan Hines-Ike, Jackson Hopkins, Yamil Asad, Jacob Greene, Eric Hurtado, Cristian Dájome
Captain: Russell Canouse
Taxi Fountas (thigh)
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.
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.
Keys to the Match:
Can DC play with their bogeyman? If you’re to ask a diehard DC United Supporter who DC United’s biggest rival is, the answer hands down would be the New Jersey Red Bulls. If you were to ask the league, they would say Philadelphia Union. MLS has spent the last dozen years trying to push the idea that DC and Philadelphia should be a rivalry. The league is right, the Union should be a major rival for DC. While they may never take the place of Red Bulls in the hearts of DC United fans, the Union has done everything in their power to make themselves have a place right next to the energy drink boys on the Hudson.
DC United have not won at Subaru Park since 2014. Last year the Union humiliated the Black & Red both home and away, out scoring DC 13 to zero. The first beat down was enough to put the Chad Ashton era out of its misery. The second showed new Head Coach Wayne Rooney had a long way to go.
The Union are a true bogeyman for the Black & Red, and it’s important that they go toe-to-toe with them and at the very least get a tie.
Can they do it? The short answer is yes. United has shown a lot of improvement across the board this season, and their defense is much improved. Players have upped their individual performance as the team has shown better coordination and consistency. Yet even when the team was in a slump, they showed a lot of potential, but needed to reduce the individual mistakes. Now that those mistakes are fewer, the end results have been much better.
Can DC handle the Union’s Presss? The Black & Red have shown a vulnerability to being pressed, especially at the beginning of the game. Against FC Cincinnati there were numerous clearances by defenders that either went out of bounds or worse directly to an opponent in the first 25 minutes. Similar to other games DC United grew into the match and were able to dominate portions of the play. Unfortunately they were unable to score until after they were down two goals..
Against the Union there’s a better than average chance that this will happen again. If DC is to get the win they must mitigate slow starts. 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.
Will Benteke play? The Black & Red are hurting right now. Their injuries are numerous with none more problematic than the injuries to Taxi Fountas and Christian Benteke. Benteke wasn’t available for the last match, and the offense suffered. Then Taxi went down, and the offense was even more anemic, at least in the final delivery. United was able to move the ball and create chances, they just didn’t have a finisher until Ted Ku-Dipietro came on. If Benteke can give DC anything tonight, the chances of DC scoring go up.
Can DC defend Julian Carranza? Last year DC gave up two hat tricks to Julian Carranza. He's a good to great player in MLS, but DC made him look other-worldly. DC is playing much better defense, and it's important that they show this against Carranza.
Things to Watch:
Offense - If Christian Benteke is available the attack will go through him, with midfielders Durkin, O’Brien and Klitch playing off of him. 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.
Kristian Fletcher, Jackson Hopkins and Cristian Dájome will make the bench, and it will be interesting to see if Ted Ku-Dipietro is available. Despite being the hero of Saturday’s match, he is nursing a knock.
Defense - The big question for the Black & Red is can United keep their defensive form with more injuries? DC United allowed one goal versus Nashville, but it truly was a fluke. The Center Backs are solid, with Derrick Williams settling in nicely while Steven Birnbaum is out. The two Fullbacks will be new again. There is a good chance Jacob Greene will return to the starting lineup with the injuries to Ruan and Andy Najar. On the opposite side of the field will most likely be Gaoussou Samaké. Both are decent defenders, but don’t have much experience, do not have the ball control or ability to advance the ball that Najar and Santos display.
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 16 goals in 12 matches for 9th in scoring
DC United has scored 16 goals and conceded 16 goals. Their zero differential ranks 12th in MLS
DC United take an average of 4.1 corners per game and concede an average of 1.3 goals per game
DC United’s 13 goals conceded (1.3 per game) rank 17th in the league
DC United’s goal differential of +1 is 11th in MLS
DC United has 14 goals in 10 games this season (7th in MLS)
Christian Benteke has scored 5 goals (fourth in league)
Mateusz Klich has 1 goal and 4 assists
Ted Ku-DiPietro has scored 2 goals and 1 assist
DC United have 5 additional players with 1 goal apiece
Tyler Miller has kept 3 clean sheets
Philadelphia has scored 17 goals in 11 games for 8th in MLS
Philadelphia has allowed 14 goals in 11 games for 12th in MLS
Philadelphia’s goal differential ranks 7th in MLS, with 17 goals scored and 14 conceded
Philadelphia’s Daniel Gazdag has 4 goals (13th in league) and 4 assists
Carranza has 4 goals and 2 assists, another important player for Philadelphia
Mikael Uhre has scored 5 goals (6th in league) and has 0 assists
Joaquin Torres has 1 goal (on 6 shots, 0.5 per game) and 1 assist.
1-0 loss under the bridge. The Black & Red’s inability to win in Chester PA will continue. The game will be a thousand times better than last season, and there will be a nil-nil draw at half, but I’m afraid DC won’t be able to score, and won’t be able to keep a clean sheet.
Coverage: Apple MLS Season Pass on Apple TV (Free)
Fox Sport 1
Start time 7:55
📻: 1190am, 101.1HD2, 104.7fm
🔊: Any Smart Speaker
📱: @iHeartRadio App
Written by: RJ Rolsen