Match preview: Union out to keep lid on slow-boiling Eastern Conference rival United

Preview of Saturday's clash against D.C. United (8 p.m., NBCSN)

Cruz vs DC United

Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio

D.C. United at Philadelphia Union 

When: Saturday, 8 p.m.; Where: PPL Park, Chester, Pa.; Ticketspurchase tickets

TV: NBC Sports Network with play-by-play announcer John Strong and color analyst Russ Thayer

Radio: None; Online: Streaming via MLSSoccer.com/live

Social: Follow all the action via Twitter gameday feed @TheUMatchday

Referee(s): Hilario Grajeda (main): Bill Dittmar, James Conlee, Kevin Terry Jr. (fourth)

All-time (eight meetings): Union: three wins, 12 goals; United: three wins, 13 goals; Ties: 2
 
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In a rivalry match, records don’t matter.

While D.C. United isn’t playing at a high level in league play, the Philadelphia Union still expect a battle on Saturday.

D.C. United has advanced to the finals of the U.S. Open Cup, so it has plenty of ability on any given night.

With the Union still seething a bit following last Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Chicago Fire, that could add some fuel to this rivalry against D.C. United.

“You forget about it but I was definitely annoyed for sure,” Union defender Jeff Parke said of the loss to Chicago. “There was a lot of anger I had inside after a game like that but it was hats off to Chicago, they did what they could to win. They’re a better team than they’ve shown and the early parts of the season. I could tell guys were frustrated. There was some chippiness in the beginning of the week (in training) and there had to be some talks with (manager John Hackworth) and some of the other coaches to calm down and to get over it and move on.

“There’s a lot of times you lose a game and you don’t want to take that loss into the next game and have that affect the game you have coming up. Let that light a fire under you and let that push you but you have to move on as fast as you can.”

Hackworth could tell early this week that the Union were focused on D.C. United.

“I like the fact that our players are a little (ticked) off,” Hackworth said. “They’re upset with themselves. They’re upset with our performance. They clearly knew that I was upset on Saturday. I would say that Jeff was right. It was chippy to say the least. Comical in some ways that we were going as hard as we were against each other and maybe we didn’t do that against Chicago to start the game. Clearly, we ended well but it was too little too late.

“The guys I think have an opportunity to kind of download and put that game behind them now and prepare for D.C. The week has changed a little bit. Today, guys were smiling and focused and rested and preparing for D.C. I think we put that game behind us and are ready to move on.”

Moving on straight into a rivalry match does a lot to get any club focused.

And the Union know what to expect.

“Anytime you play against a team like them, not hate, but there’s a sort of bite to the game with a rival team like that,” Parke said. “It’s always difficult to not get up for a game like that, even if they’re not doing so well because they’re obviously going to get up for the game. It’s going to be important that we set the tone and get after them because there’s always a bit of fight going on and guys jawing and getting stuck on tackles. It’s going to be a physical game for sure.”

Hackworth has seen just about everything in previous matches against D.C. United. He understands that you toss out the records when these two clubs step on the pitch to play.

“You never what’s going to happen when D.C. and Philly play,” Hackworth said. “We’re trying to stay really focused on the fact that we need to approach this game as a very important game playing at home. We have two difficult games on the road coming up. This is a game that is really important for us.”

Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at andy.jasner@yahoo.com