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Match preview: Union v DC United

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

What: Union vs DC United

When: Thursday, 8pm ET

Where: PPL Park, Chester, PA, USA

TV: ESPN2

Radio: I’m still waiting for the call

Only one team in the East has more than three wins on the road. And they are driving up to PPL Park today.

Since the Union and DC last faced off, United has more road wins than the Union have total wins. And the two players who made their DC debuts against Philly have been nothing short of spectacular.

McDonald is lovin’ it

While Dwayne De Rosario has been making himself an MVP candidate, Brandon McDonald (who arrived at the same time) has done the yeoman’s work in the back. Prior to the former Earthquake arriving, DC had given up 27 goals in 15 games. In the 13 matches featuring McDonald, only 14 goals have snuck past the defense. Maybe you think that’s not Union-good, but in the past 13 the local boys have given up 17 themselves.

What McDonald has brought to DC is what Faryd Mondragon brought to Philadelphia: A veteran presence in the back who asks the rest of the players to take their games to the next level.

Perry Kitchen, who gifted the Union a goal last time around, has moved out right to make room for Ethan White next to McDonald. Kitchen was a defensive midfielder in college, but he’s clearly a smart and mobile player who reads the game very well. He won’t be the spark plug out of the back like Sheanon Williams, but if he has space Kitchen can pick a defense apart with his passing.

What we talk about when we talk about DeRo

But, clearly, the biggest threat on DC United will be wearing number seven. Contrary to the Kyle Martino anti-logic that a player higher up the pitch scores more goals, De Rosario has a hat trick from both the attacking midfield and striker positions this season. He played up top with Josh Wolff last Saturday against Real Salt Lake, with Charlie Davies relegated to the plank (that’s the bench, not the diving board. Or is it…)

Frankly, it would seem a gift to the Union if DC kept De Rosario up front. Few strikers have troubled Philadelphia, leaving the creative midfielders to inflict more damage (Nick LaBrocca of Chivas being an example we will revisit this weekend). Stephen King is an able central midfielder, but assuming the Union keep their recent 4-2-3-1 shape it will take an above-average creator to break them down at Fort Chester.

Besides, nobody named Stephen King can scare me. I read The Green Mile and Under the Dome and I can tell you that waiting for the Union starting lineup to be announced is scarier than both.

Keep the changes to a minimum

Speaking of that lineup, it should look very similar to the last two. The team’s short run of good results has coincided with the coaching staff’s willingness to address defensive shortcomings and let the offense work itself out. Two holding midfielders morphs into soccer’s version of an I-formation on offense, with Brian Carroll staying deep and either Amobi Okugo or Michael Farfan filling the space left by Roger Torres when he drifts wide to receive outlets.

DC wingers Austin de Luz and Andy Najar play defense like they are in the NFL Pro Bowl. Torres can exploit the space they leave behind, but he will need either Pauno, Pfeffer or McInerney dropping and Marfan or Okugo stepping up as options. Otherwise we will be treated to another long night of Le Toux chasing. The big change in RoTo’s game is a willingness to look for options other than the curled long ball. But he can’t make the pass if it isn’t there.

Game time decisions

At his Wednesday press conference, Peter Nowak said that the team’s big injuries would be game time decisions. Sheanon Williams’s place in the starting eleven is assured if he says he can go. Whether Freddy Adu belongs in the first team is more questionable. Jack McInerney and Zach Pfeffer both want his minutes and Mac made a strong case for them last weekend.

When it all shakes out, there really is no separating these two teams. DC swings big and tries to knock you down, the Union take a licking and keep on ticking. DeRo knocked RSL out in the first 30 minutes last weekend; the Union must avoid an early sucker punch and ride the passion and noise of their fans if they want to take three points of DC United.

Probable lineups

Union

ZacMac, Sheanomenon, El Kaiser, Bearfight, Garfan, Linguine, Marfan, AmoBeast, RoTo, JackAttack, Seba “Eight Straight” Le Touch

DC United

Hamid, Burch, McDonald, White, Kitchen, Najar, Simms, da Luz, de Rosario, Wolff, Divies

Probable subs

Union

Notsure Couldbe, Shoulder Shrugg, Guyoff DaStreet

DC

Quaranta, Ngwenya

Injuries

Union

OUT: Mondragon (finger), Holder (concussion), Houapeu (ankle) QUESTIONABLE: Williams (hammy), Miglioranzi (knee), Paunovic (calf), Mwanga (hip)

DC

OUT: Boskovic (ACL), Pontius (tibia), Zayner (knee) QUESTIONABLE: Cronin (shoulder), Jakovic (hamstring)

Suspended for next yellow card

Union

Valdes

DC

da Luz, McDonald

Best Keon Daniel haiku made from his first name and three anagrams of his full name

Non-idea Elk? And

like one, an old knee. Keon:

The Neon Ale Kid

Referee

Ricardo Salazar – MLS Career: 140 games; FC/gm: 26.9; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 42; pens: 54

PPL Park forecast

Cloudy with a chance of LOUD!

Miscellany

  • The Union and United are 1-1-1 overall against each other
  • DC does not have back-to-back wins all year
  • Sheanon Williams has suffered more fouls than any other Union player this year. He has also conceded the most.
  • Dwayne De Rosario has more shots on goal in his 13 games with DC than any Union player has over the course of the full season
  • Paunovic, Torres and Adu are the only other Union players to score since Le Toux’s 7 in 7 streak started. They have each scored once during that time.

3 Comments

  1. Looks like young Olsen outfoxed old Nowak in the transfer window; hope he does not outfox him tonight!

  2. I love Marfan. Also, the announcer (the American one) keeps talking and talking about Williams not being fit due to how many games he missed, which is confusing since he only missed one.

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