Scouting report: A breakdown of what to expect from D.C. United
It's certainly way too early to call any game a "must win", but 10th place D.C. United need three points against Philadelphia this Sunday to climb out of the Eastern Conference basement and get their season back on track.
Ben Olsen's team is tied for dead last in the conference with just four points and a 1-4-1 (three points) record. They've gone four games without a win, three games without a point, and have lost two of three matches played at RFK Stadium this season.
This will be Philadelphia's 10th all-time meeting with their I-95 rivals. The Union are 3-4-2 against D.C. with a 0-1-2 record at RFK.
Statistically the second worse offense in the league, D.C. United has scored just two goals through the first six games this season.
It's due in part to a few big absences. Captain Dwayne De Rosario has played limited minutes due to suspension and injury. Winger Nick Deleon, now in his second season, has missed a couple of games with a hamstring issue.
That's left the bulk of the offense to M/F Chris Pontius and former Union striker Lionard Pajoy. The pair have contributed just one goal and one assist in 1,054 combined minutes.
D.C. United could definitely use some improved play from its three Brazilians: Rafael, Raphael Augusto, and Marcelo Saragosa. The latter two are midfielders. The former is a 20-year-old designated player who's played 180 minutes in three total appearances.
Marcos Sanchez and Kyle Porter are new faces in the midfield. Carlos Ruiz, also formerly with Philadelphia, signed with United in the offseason. "Pescadito" has yet to open his account with his new club.
The turnover hasn't helped either. Forwards Maicon Santos and Hamdi Salihi were released at the end of last season. Midfielder Branko Boskovic left the club and dynamic RM/RB Andy Najar made a marquee move to Anderlecht in the Belgian league.
The departure of Najar, and also Emiliano Dudar, gives the D.C. United defense a bit of a different look in 2013.
Olsen has settled on CB pair Brandon McDonald and Dejan Jakovic, recalling Ethan White from his Richmond loan to provide depth off the bench.
Chris Korb and Daniel Woolard are mostly steady and consistent at right back and left back, but don't expect the bombing forward runs that Najar was capable of making. James Riley and Robbie Russell are a pair of aging veterans who can fill in at the fullback spots when necessary.
Defensive midfielder Perry Kitchen is an important piece to the puzzle. Now in his third year with the club, he's expected to grow in the holding role and assert himself in games moreso than his rookie and sophomore years.
Goalkeeper Bill Hamid is always capable of taking over a game with excellent, eye-opening performances. He's also capable of allowing a soft goal every now and then. His goals against average (1.17) and save percentage (76) are good enough to place him in the statistical top half of MLS goalkeepers through 6 games.
Possible Starting XI: Hamid (GK), Woolard, Jakovic, McDonald, Korb, Kitchen, Pontius, Marcos Sanchez, De Rosario, Pajoy, Rafael
This will be Philadelphia's sixth overall trip to the Washington D.C. area. Taking into account a pair of USOC games at the Maryland SoccerPlex, Philadelphia is 1-2-2 in road games vs. United.
Last year's game at RFK finished in a 1-1 draw, with three red cards shown in the final 10 minutes. Philadelphia finished the match in a 10 vs. 9 situation after De Rosario's penalty kick goal was called back for encroachment.
The tenth total matchup with D.C. United, Philadelphia has played United more than any other club since joining Major League Soccer in 2010.
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at email@example.com