Philadelphia Union (4-10-5, 17 points, 7th in the East) vs. D.C. United (3-14-3, 12 points, 8th in the East), at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
All-time record: Union won their only meeting to date.
2:00pm ET (with pre-game show at 1:30pm); 6abc, MyNetwork TV – WQMY
The second all-time meeting between these clubs finds them at the bottom of both the conference and overall league standings. But while their playoff prospects look remote, Philadelphia and DC have plenty to play for as the league’s newest regional rivals.
The match marks the MLS return of Union Manager Peter Nowak to D.C., where he led United to the 2004 MLS Cup championship before stepping down after the 2006 season to join the US National Team staff. His current side has not won in a month, but United are even colder, mired in an eight-game winless slump in MLS.
Interim Head Coach Ben Olsen has praised his players’ attitude and commitment since he took the reins two weeks ago. But his side has continued to make many of the same errors that have plagued them all year, with poor finishing and defensive gaffes cropping up week after week.
The psychological toll of this nightmarish pattern revealed itself in Tuesday’s training session, when Santino Quaranta and assistant coach Mark Simpson faced off in a heated argument before being separated by teammates.
“This stuff, it’s a thin line. It happens every year,” noted Olsen, who has reminded the media that such incidents were even more commonplace on United’s championship teams of the past. “I’d be worried if it didn’t happen more than not. You push these guys and you rev them up to an area where you want them to be intense, and it spills over sometimes. When people are frustrated and you have losses, then it happens even more because people are tired of losing. It’s not fun.”
Though they sit just one place above United in the standings, Philadelphia enter this match with a far sunnier disposition, given their recent performances. The Union earned a 1-1 draw against defending champs Real Salt Lake last Wednesday, then snatched a late equalizer against the Rapids over the weekend, with Danny Mwanga scoring on both occasions to further bolster his Rookie of the Year credentials.
But victories remain elusive and the Union coaching staff is urging their team to mind the small details needed to snare all three points.
“There are a number of factors that go into that,” Coach John Hackworth said. “If we finish the type of chances we create, then we don’t put ourselves in a position to be in so many of these tight games. On the flip side of it, we can do a better job defensively as a unit and we need to continue to try to push to be better in that area.”
Heroes & Villains
Sebastien Le Toux vs United’s center backs -- Philly’s French striker has enjoyed a torrid campaign, either creating or finishing the vast majority of his team’s goals. His blend of size, skill and intelligent movement offers teammates a useful point of reference in the attack and the D.C. back line will have to be well-coordinated in their efforts to blunt his impact.
Veteran Carey Talley can match Le Toux’s guile, but will need the younger, quicker Julius James to provide cover at important moments. United’s overall prospects would improve if Dejan Jakovic’s hamstring allows him to return to the starting XI.
Stat that makes you go “Hmm...”
The two teams’ combined goal differential is -33. Together, United and Philadelphia sit at the bottom of the league in this category. Both are also neck-and-neck in the goals-allowed standings with United having conceded 35 and Philadelphia 34.