The Philadelphia Union will be aiming for a third consecutive win on Saturday and with it their finest five game record of the season when the club heads south to do battle with Eastern Conference rivals D.C. United.
With one win in just eleven matches, Philadelphia has enjoyed a bit of a coming out party with consecutive victories over two top teams in the East, a 1-0 win over United on May 17 and THAT slightly sporadic 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls.
United, on the other hand come home wounded after suffering a tight 1-0 defeat to the Portland Timbers at Providence Park during the week. Both teams however average about a goal per game. The Union have netted 13 goals from 13 games while DC has scored one more from just as many. So, if you’re a betting man.. a “both teams to score” line wouldn’t be a bad shout. In terms of the game though, it highlights one key element..defence.
Over the last two games, the defence hasn’t needed to come up with reasons why they fell short. The Union have improved over the course of both games, remaining compact in the box whilst the midfielders and more importantly Le Toux have rightly began to track back. Philly’s MLS-worst defence has stepped it up a notch..but is there a new gameplan? A secret formula that has suddenly been discovered? The answer is maybe..maybe the best form of attacking..is defending.
It is no secret that both of the Union’s recent victories have come from absorbing pressure and then promptly countering down the wings. It’s a dangerous playing style as you’re quite literally juggling fire, but one that has also highlighted some newly found key players, elusive Left Back Fabinho being one of them. It sets a lot of pressure on the Goalkeeper and back four, positions that until recently have been constantly rotated through injury and lack of depth. The thing is though, the Union don’t have a star player to turn to. They need to win and lose as a team and through fluidity of team movements. If the now cohesive Union defence can keep DC United at bay once again and flood the ball upfield, the attacking unit can do the rest.
The Union are also finally close to being at full health, meaning that the best starting eleven has only a few missing names with Edu being one of them. If Gaddis is absent there is a more than capable supporting wing back in Fabinho to cover. Which leaves the question of if CJ Sapong could fit into a squad with Aristeguieta now healthy. This sounds like a problem but think about it..THERE IS CHOICE. No longer is Coach Curtin having to scramble his head, make drastic tactical changes or start the reserves in order to have half a chance at taking one point. We’re finally at a point where all of our top players are near full health, in stark contrast to DC’s depth problems..this is a huge advantage.
Prediction- DC United 1-2 Philadelphia Union
Both teams to score with the Union conceding in the second half is my call. A late winner would not be surprising in a city that has seen more sporting miracles than Moses. The team look considerably stronger when they don’t go into the break at a disadvantage or behind. With DC so heavily reliant on a now fatigued Jairo Arrieta and an out-of-position Chris Pontius, Philly’s defence will not only come into this with a mental edge but a physical one. They can take the fight to the attackers and use their energy much more loosely as opposed to running on 70% to stay fit for next week. A high flying DOOP team added with the fitness advantage is one thing, but when you look at the DC depth issues it’s even more clear that the Union can make it their first three win streak of the season.
All they have to do is the exact same they did in New York: Draw and Counter. Some call it survival, some call it parking the bus, managers call it success. Not every team has a Dempsey or a Robbie Keane. Sometimes, you take the hand you were dealt and bluff your way to the top. Time to snatch three points.
Want to write for us and get paid for doing it? Email [email protected] for details!