Philadelphia Union look to rebound after losing consecutive games for only the second time this season as they hit the road to battle Eastern Conference rival D.C. United Saturday at 7 p.m.
What You Need to Know
D.C. United (5-8-8, 23 points) head into this weekend’s matchup within striking distance of the red line in the Eastern Conference standings. The last couple weeks have witnessed the table tightening in the East, and now the addition three points for teams like D.C. could allow them to climb right back into playoff contention.
Where They Thrive
D.C. United has been riding the coattails of its defense this season, and with good reason. The Black-and-Red defensive core’s stingy 1.24 GPG average and 26 goals-allowed total are the second-lowest by any other team in the Eastern Conference respectively.
Defense is crucial for United, and the success of the team as a whole is strongly anchored to the performance of D.C.’s starting goalkeeper Bill Hamid. Hamid has only been healthy for eight games this season, but through those eight starts he has registered a 78.4 save percentage – best in the Eastern Conference and fourth-best in the MLS. He has also finished three of his eight matches in 2016 with a clean sheet, and allowed fewer goals per game than any other keeper in the East.
Where They Dive
United has endured its fair share of offensive struggles this year as they are one of only two clubs in the MLS that currently average less than one goal per game (last-place Chicago Fire being the second), along with owning a league-low 0.95 GPG.
Perhaps most alarming about the team’s offense is D.C.’s inaccuracy on scoring opportunities this year. Despite taking the fourth-highest number of shots per game in the league, United has the third-fewest number of shots on goal per game and has done so by posting the second-lowest percentage of total SOG in the entire MLS.
Players to Watch
Patrick Mullins, forward: (2 GP, 1 GS, 1g, 0a). While he may not be a household name for D.C. United fans yet, the 24-year-old Mullins has already managed to make a big splash in only 112 minutes on the field for his new club. In his first career start with United, the forward scored his team’s only goal in D.C.’s last match against Montreal Impact.
Alvaro Saborio, forward: (15 GP, 8 GS, 4g, 3a). After the recent departure of Fabian Espindola, Alvaro Saborio is now the team’s sole leading scorer this season with four goals and three assists. The 34-year-old should prove to be even more dangerous as a sub behind the fresh legs of Patrick Mullins at the forward spot.
Kennedy Igboananike, forward: (1 GP, 0 GS, 0g, 0a). Kennedy Igboanike is another recent acquisition by D.C. brought in to help catalyze the team’s offense. Before he was traded to United from Chicago last week, Igboanike recorded four goals and an assist in 18 games for the Fire this season.
Goalkeeper: Bill Hamid
Defenders: (left to right) Taylor Kemp, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, Sean Franklin
Midfielders: (left to right) Marcelo Sarvas (holding) Patrick Nyarko, Luciano Acosta, Jared Jeffrey, Nick DeLeon (attacking)
Forward: Patrick Mullins
Last Five MLS Results
Goal Differential: -6
T 1-1 vs. MTL
L 1-4 @ TOR
T 1-1 @ COL
L 0-3 @ PHL
T 1-1 @ RSL