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Since last they met

When the Philadelphia Union and DC United last met on July 2, the Union were 7–4–5 with 26 points and in first place in the Eastern Conference. Danny Mwanga had scored his fifth goal of the season the previous weekend in a come-from-behind win against Chivas USA that also included goals from Veljko Paunovic and Carlos Ruiz.

It was Paunovic’s first goal for the Union and Ruiz’ first since his return from international duty.

DC United were on a four game winless streak after giving up a late goal to Houston the previous weekend for a 2–2 draw. They were in fifth place in the East with 18 points from a 4–5–6 record.

DC United 2–2 Philadelphia Union

After beating DC United 3–2 in the home opener at the Linc back in April of 2010 off of a Sebastien Le Toux hat trick, the Union suffered a dispiriting 2–0 loss at RFK Stadium later in August.

Against DC in July in 2011, the Union gave up a goal in the 44th minute to Josh Wolf, assisted by Dwayne De Rosario in his United debut. In the 49th minute, the Union drew level thanks to a Perry Kitchen own goal, only to see DC go ahead with a fine individual effort from Andy Najar.

But the Union kept battling. Their tenacity paid off in the 84th minute when Sebastien Le Toux played a fine ball to a streaking Sheanon Williams. The right back laid a pinpoint cross to Carlos Ruiz, who made no mistake.

The PSP match report for the game concluded:

One point on the road for the Union, and it was all they deserved. Once again this team relied on heart when talent should have been plenty. But the heart, as has been the case all season, was there. And even with Le Toux as the only standout player on the offensive end (minus finishing), the Union walk out of RFK with a 2-2 tie.

While the Union’s defense was clearly below their high standard, DC United exposed weaknesses that everyone knew were there: Najar’s goal game when Brian Carroll was caught out and the DC winger had a free run through the Philadelphia half, Mapp and Le Toux push too high to offer good defensive shape against a team with a top-class creative force (which, unfortunately, DeRo is).

And once again, the Union let a weaker team dictate play. It’s one thing to live by the counterattack, but it is another to defend without a strong shape and plan. The Union are living dangerously as they try to figure out how to become a side that can challenge for the cup. Here’s to hoping it all comes together soon!

Since then

Since the draw with DC, the Union have a 2–3–7 record and are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 40 points.

On the road again after the DC game, the Union played to a lackluster scoreless draw against San Jose the following weekend before thumping New England 3–0. It would prove to be the last Union win for two months.

After playing Everton and Real Madrid, the Union lost its first home game of the season 1–2 to Colorado. The departure of Carlos Ruiz was announced after that game and the Union went on to an eight game winless streak of three losses and five draws that also included both the loss of first place and Faryd Mondragon to a broken finger. Throughout that painful series, the Union gave up 14 goals—the same number of goals they allowed in the first 15 games of the season–and scored 11. While Sebastien Le Toux regained his touch and is now on seven goals from the last seven games, Danny Mwanga hasn’t scored since the Chivas game, registering one assist in the closing moments of the New England game on Sheanon Williams’ goal when the Union were already up by two goals and sharing an assist with Paunovic on Freddy Adu’s goal in the 4–4 draw with New England at home.

DC has gone 4–3–4 since playing Philadelphia, a record that includes four shutouts, three road victories–one of which was over New York–and two road draws. They are in sixth place with 38 points.

In their last outing they recorded a commanding 4–1 win over Real Salt Lake at home in in a match that featured a De Rosario hat trick, his second with United. Along the way they’ve scored 20 goals while allowing 12. Nine of the goals scored have come via hat tricks from De Rosario (2) and Charlie Davies (1). De Rosario currently leads the league with 13 goals scored and Charlie Davies is tied with three other players at 11 goals.

All of those goals means that DC is currently fourth in the league in goals scored with 44, third in the East. The Union is tied for eighth in the league with 37, fifth in the East. The Union is third in the league in goals allowed with 31, first in the East, while DC is tied with New York for ninth in the league with 41 and tied for fourth in the East.

Thursday night will not be easy.

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