CHESTER, Pa. -- The burgeoning Union-United I-95 rivalry always provides plenty of intrigue.
Saturday's 7 p.m. ET contest at PPL Park is arguably the most intriguing matchup yet.
It will mark the debut of John Hackworth as Philadelphia’s interim manager. Hackworth was elevated when the Union and ex-manager Peter Nowak parted ways on Wednesday.
It will be a rematch of the Union's hotly-contested 2-1 victory over United in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup June 5 at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
And it will be the Union’s first Major League Soccer match since falling 1-0 at Toronto FC on May 26. The Union (2-7-2) haven’t won a league match since a 1-0 clean sheet over Chivas USA on April 21.
“Anytime you throw a rivalry in there, it makes it just a little bit more interesting and then having won there, I think they’re going to come in even more intense than they did in that game,” midfielder Brian Carroll told philadelphiaunion.com. “It got a little chippy towards the end and we’re going to have to expect that and rise to the challenge and win two in a row.”
D.C. United have come out strong in 2012 with a 8-4-3 record, leading the Eastern Conference with 27 points. They have won three league matches in a row.
Dwayne De Rosario is expected to be back in the starting lineup following a stint with the Canadian National Team. De Rosario didn’t play in the U.S. Open Cup match against the Union.
The Union will be looking for a fresh start after scoring just eight goals through the first 11 league matches, tied for last with Toronto FC.
Bu Philadelphia scored three times against the Rochester Rhinos and twice against D.C. United in the U.S. Open Cup. The Union tallied three goals in a friendly against Reading United and two more against the Harrisburg City Islanders in a 3-2 loss last Tuesday in Hershey.
“With the break, we had some games to help keep us sharp,” midfielder Amobi Okugo said. “Now, we’ve got to focus back on the league. We know we’re on the bottom of the table so we’re going to use the game we won against D.C. last week and hopefully build on that and get another win.”
Simply getting back into league competition is something the players are anxiously awaiting.
“It’s felt like a long time,” Carroll said. “It’s ready to get going again and hopefully we’ll be able to start from this quirky break a lot better than we did earlier in the year.”
“We’re pretty anxious,” Hackworth added of a return to MLS matches. “You don’t usually have a three-week gap in your schedule. This is a bit unusual. With the Open Cup and the friendlies, we’ve had enough games to keep us game-ready. It’s going be a heated game Saturday for sure.”
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