A battle at the bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference: Union at DC United preview

The Union take on DC United tomorrow. This match is unique; it is not only a rivalry game, it’s also a battle at the bottom of the east. The Union have had a lot of time off. Let’s take a look at what kind of challenge DC will pose, and what the Union are doing to prepare for DC.

DC has owned the Union at RFK stadium. The Union’s sole win in DC was back in 2013. The rest of the time they have either fought hard and drew, or got destroyed. If you want a quick history of DC’s dominance versus Philly, and a reminder that the Union haven’t won since last August, watch this little preview video from DC United.

Both of these teams are looking to start April on the right foot. After obtaining no wins their first three matches, DC United and Philadelphia find themselves at the bottom of the East. With both teams starved for points in an overly competitive Eastern Conference, this match will be crucial for either teams should one take all three points. DC have yet to score a goal this season, and Philly’s make shift back line has yet to truly impress. One DC player that could factor in them getting their first goal of the season has a familiar face.

Sebastien Le Toux could play a huge role for DC tonight, whether on the pitch or not. Seba knows the ins and outs of the Union. Union fans may be shocked to see Seba tonight, but don’t be too surprised. As Kevin Kinkead points out, DC will be without striker Patrick Mullins. This leaves DC with an MLS newcomer Guillermo Ortiz, or proven MLS scorer Sebastien Le Toux. Le Toux will want to stick one to the Union should he be on the field. His mid-summer departure was a shock to him, and also the fan base. If Seba scores the first goal of the season, and gives DC their first win of the season, it’ll be yet another chapter in the “that’s so Union” story. DC need a goal scorer, but that’s not where their main strength lies.

DC’s has depth and strength in their defense. While they have let up six goals in their last two matches, DC will rely on their leaders at the back to structure their teams presence. Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell and Steve Birnbaum hold down the center of the defense. The three have a combined 21 years of MLS experience, as DC United points out in the above article. These experienced players are the teams core, along with keeper Bill Hamid. The Union will need to find a way to get past them as NYCFC and Columbus have done.

The blueprint to beating DC is simple; hit them on the counter, and make the most of second chance balls. DC has conceded all of their goals by allowing counter attacks to hurt them. Whether the ball goes in on a first attempt on the counter, on a second chance or a penalty is called, DC will present oppertunities when their defense is scrambling. The Union will need to look to hit DC on the counter to find success.

The Union have been preparing for this match, and seem confident that they can go to a hostile environment and get the three points. The long break has helped get some Union players back to full strength. Jim Curtin alluded to Ilsinho and Jay Simpson returning to full strength which will really help the attack. The Union will need to stop the dangerous attackers DC has and look to hit on the counter attack to find success. The coach understands the challenge and so does the Union captain.

Alejandro Bedoya’s thoughts on the matter are the same as Jim Curtin’s. This game is going to be a tough one, where the team that can make the most of their oppertunities will prevail. For the Union to do this they will need to look to hit hard on the counter that means that Bedoya will need to look to run off of Sapong and play quality balls to the wingers to produce chances. He has only played three games for the Union at the number 10, the Toronto game  being his best and the Orlando one his worst. He needs to show glimpses of how he played in Toronto if the Union want to get the three points. The Wingers will also need to know when to get forward in a hurry to hit DC on the counter. Chris Pontius knows how Philly-DC games depends on that.

Pontius played in DC for seven years before being traded to Philly. He knows both sides of this rivalry, and the nature that it brings. Chippy atmosphere, and hard work produce results. Chris was a standout for Philly last year, winning MLS’ “Comeback Player of the Year” award. Chris will need to have a big game in his old home. He had some of his best games agaisnt his former club in 2016, and produced more for the Union in one year than he did in his past three seasons with DC. Here’s all the stats you need to know heading into the Union’s week five match.

The Union being back to full strength gives Jim Curtin hard decisions, but gives the team it’s best starting 11. I would think the team will look like this tonight.

Starters: Blake; Fabinho, Marquez, Onyewu, Rosenberry; Medunjanin, Jones; Pontius, Bedoya, Ilsinho; Simpson.
Bench: McCarthy, Gaddis, Creavalle, Fafa, Herbers, Alberg, Sapong.

Back before the season I predicted a tie, and while that is a likely outcome, I see the Union getting the three points in this match. DC being without their starting striker does not help their goalless problem; their ability to become disorganized at the back gives the Union the chances to score. We shall see what happens tonight, but there are good vibes coming from this well rested Union team.

The Union take on DC United today at 7 PM. If they can take hit DC on the counter, make the most of second chance oppertunities and stay solid at the back the Union should come away with their first win of the season. Come back to Philly Sports Network for analysis of the match later. Until then, peace put Union fans.

 

Mandatory Credit: Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

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