Scouting Report: D.C. United

Trade highlights 8th meeting between rivals

Philadelphia Union vs. D.C. United is becoming a common fixture in Major League Soccer.

Sunday's match will the 8th between the regional rivals, and third meeting this season.

And it will feature familiar faces, now playing for the other team.

On Thursday, Philadelphia acquired M/F Danny Cruz in a trade that sent Lionard to Pajoy to DC. Each player is expected to be available for his respective team at RFK Stadium.

The teams have split the season series so far. Philadelphia knocked D.C. out of the U.S. Open Cup on June 5th. Eleven days later, on June 16th, D.C. posted a 1-0 shutout at PPL Park in league play.

D.C. have fallen to 5th place in the Eastern Conference standings, just 3 points ahead of Montreal in the playoff race. Philadelphia are 3-3-1 all time against United.

D.C. Attack

The obvious storyline is the addition of Pajoy to the D.C. attacking corps. The former Union man could add some stability to an offense that really hit a snag after a great start to the season.

In four games since July, D.C. are 1-3-0 with just two goals scored. Manager Ben Olsen has been without the injured Maicon Santos, while Hamdi Salihi received a call-up from the Albanian national team. 2011 league MVP Dwayne De Rosario is also recovering from a shoulder injury.

That left all-star Chris Pontius and former Vancouver man Long Tan as D.C.'s strike tandem in the recent 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City. Veteran striker Josh Wolff played 19 minutes off the bench and Branko Boskovic played in an attacking midfield role with Andy Najar and Nick Deleon on the wings.

The United attacking situation is unclear ahead of Sunday night's match. It is clear, however, that Olsen's team is far from 100% in the injury department. You'd have to go back to June 30th's 3-0 win against Montreal to find United's last solid offensive performance.

D.C. Defense

The only real change is the addition of left back Mike Chabala to the United backline. The former Portland man played 80 minutes against SKC in place of normal left back Daniel Woolard.

The central defensive pairing of Brandon McDonald and Emiliano Dudar has remained mostly intact. Dejan Jakovic is the third man in a solid CB rotation.

Chris Korb remains the starter at right back, with Bill Hamid in goal.

Perry Kitchen might be the most consistent player on Olsen's team. The second year Akron product looks comfortable in his holding midfield position.

Keys to the Game

It's really a been a tale of two seasons for United. Olsen's club went 10-4-2 over the course of April, May, and June. But his team is 1-3-0 in the four league matches played since then.

Philadelphia has played D.C. four times on the road, for a 1-2-1 mark. The Union are 0-1-1 all time at RFK Stadium and 1-1-0 at the SoccerPlex in Boyds, Maryland. Those latter games were both part of the U.S. Open Cup.

The Union will be fortunate to catch D.C. at a time when injuries and poor form are affecting recent performances. But players like Pontius, Boskovic, Deleon, and Najar are all healthy and more than capable of playing at a high level.

It always seems to be an even affair when D.C. and Philadelphia get together. Of the 7 games in series history, only 1 has been decided by more than one goal. One game played out to a 2-2 draw, while the five others were were very tight results.

There will be a lot at stake for both teams on Sunday, as D.C. look to hang on the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Philadelphia are in dire need of 3 points to keep pace with Montreal , Columbus, and New England.