Philadelphia Union vs. D.C. United
Talen Energy Stadium
July 9th, 2016
State of the Union
The Philadelphia Union will return home looking to rebound from a tough 1-0 loss in Houston with a match against their neighbors to the south, D.C. United, on Saturday.
It’s safe to say that the Union are in a bit of a slump right now, having lost 3 of their last 4 league matches. That being said, there is no reason to panic …yet.
For the first time in a month, the Union will have an entire week to rest, practice and prepare between matches. They will also return home, where they have played very well so far this season (6-1-2). The weather should be better (hopefully 15 degrees cooler), the field should be better (Houston’s pitch was less than ideal), the fans should be better (home crowd for a Saturday game in July with fireworks!), and most importantly, the lineup should be better.
The Union will likely have CJ Sapong return to his starting position up top. He contributed about 27 minutes in relief last game and really changed the dynamic of the entire team when he came on. His long-awaited return will certainly help the offensive side of things.
In the midfield, Union fans can expect to see some combination of Alberg, Barnetta, Pontius, Ilsinho, Carroll, and Creavalle. For my money, I’d like to see Alberg, Ilsinho, and Pontius in the central mid and wing roles with Barnetta and Carroll playing the double pivot. Behind them, we should see Fabinho, Marquez, Tribbett, and Rosenberry manning the back line, with Jamaican Jesus in goal. Le Toux and Herbers are both pushing to be available for this match, but may be better suited as subs even if they are fully available. Yaro will be serving his one-game suspension for the highly-questionable, non-reviewable yellow cards he received in the game against Houston.
Additionally, now that the transfer window has opened up, it’s very possible that we see the team sign a player or 2 between now and Saturday’s game. I don’t think any new addition would make the 18-man roster as soon as Saturday, but it may help provide a spark for the team and some excitement for the fans.
It has been awhile since this team put together a complete 90 minutes, but it has also been awhile since we were this healthy. Nearly back to full strength (excluding Maurice Edu), Curtin & Co. will be looking to come out and make a statement.
While you want to win every game, some victories seem more important than others. This one feels critical. The Union need to win, and do so in a fashion that restores confidence in the team and builds momentum in the right direction.
Know Your Opponent
The last time these 2 teams met, was May 20th in Chester, when Richie Marquez scored in extra time to give the Union a 1-0 victory.
Since that time, D.C. United have gone 2-2-2 in 6 matches, including their loss to the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers in Open Cup play. The Union have played a grueling 9 matches over that same stretch, with a 4-3-2 record.
Impressively, D.C. United only allowed 3 goals in their last 6 games, and their record would certainly be better if they could find more consistent offensive output. The offense only managed to score 4 goals in that 6 game span. In stark contrast, the Union have tallied 19 goals (more than D.C.’s entire season) since their last meeting with D.C., but have struggled defensively, allowing 18 goals over that same stretch.
Over their last 5 games, the United have surrendered an average of 15 shots against, with nearly 6 on frame per game. Only 3 of those shots has gotten past Bill Hamid. The United are currently the 2nd best team in the league in goals against and now with Hamid back in goal, it’s become even more challenging to score. Hamid has helped the team to 3 shutouts in his 5 starts since returning.
While their defense has been stellar, their offense has been sputtering. They have scored the 3rd fewest goals in the MLS thus far with 17. Of those 17 goals, the United have managed just 5 on the road and have never scored more than 1 in an away stadium this year.
If they manage to score in Chester, it’s likely to come at the feet (or assist) of Alvaro Saborio, Luciano Acosta, or Lamar Neagle. The 3 of them have combined to score 8 of their 17 goals this year, and have contributed a combined 11 assists.
The United have changed up their formations frequently this year, most recently using a 4-4-2, then a 4-3-3, and an unconventional 4-1-4-1 in their most recent match. Regardless of how they line up on paper, they most often resemble a 4-3-3 and I think the Union can plan on seeing that Saturday.
Unbeaten in their last 3 matches, including a thrilling stoppage time goal in their most recent match to earn a tie against Real Salt Lake, D.C. United will surely be feeling confident coming in to Saturday’s match. It will be important for Philadelphia to set the tone early if the Union want to get 3 points out of this one.
Philadelphia Union 2
D.C. United 1