Match previews / US Open Cup

USOC Preview: Union at DC United

Who: Philadelphia Union at DC United
What: US Open Cup 4th Round
When: 7pm EST
Where: Maryland Soccerplex, Boyds, MD, USA
Livestream: TBD
Referee: Kevin Terry Jr., Asst. 1: Bill Dittmar, Asst. 2: Matthew Nelson, Fourth: Mark Gorak

Last season, the Union reeled off a pair of US Open Cup victories after a loss against previously pointless  Toronto (not merely winless, but without a literal and figurative point). The wins breathed a bit of life into the corpse of a season that Peter Nowak insisted was just taking a very long nap.

Antoine Hoppenot’s overtime winner in the Maryland Soccerplex was a bright spot that gave the season more meaning after Nowak’s dismissal essentially hit the reboot button on a third year franchise that, in hindsight, looked more like a blueprint for the Miami Marlins than a club coming off a playoff appearance and built on veteran leadership and young, hungry talent.

Though DC United would go on to finish second in the Eastern Conference, the Union put together a solid road performance paired with a twist of what is now the signature Brian Carroll Deflected Goal. In winning, they proved that they had the talent to compete against the big boys of MLS for short periods of time.

Luckily, that’s all the US Open Cup asks of a team: Show up every few weeks and leave it all on the pitch. Every round is a heavyweight fight and no “It’s a long season” cliches apply. For teams like the 2o12 Philadelphia Union, the Cup can be a quick, wild sprint that indicates longer-term success is closer than regular season results indicate.

They are us now

In 2013, DC United is one of those teams that needs the Cup to be a proving ground for a team that has lost its way. 1.71 points per game in 2012 is down to 0.43 in 2013, which is just… wow.

The only thing that could make things seem worse is if DC, a team with 6 points on the season, had only… six… goals.

In fact, both DC United and the Union have as many goals scored as they have points. And they have given up an equal number of goals.

But this is the US Open Cup, and anything can happen. A full one-third of United’s 2013 regular season goals came against the Union, so this may be the perfect match for Ben Olsen’s absentee offense to sharpen it’s focus.

In much the same way the Union’s 2012 Open Cup run gave the team self-belief as they exited the Nowak Era, DC United is looking for the competition to light a fire under a soggy season. Bouncing out on local turf against a despised rival would essentially end any hope United has of remaining relevant in 2013, and the transfer season would officially become a search party for 2014’s front line and center backs.

 What to expect

The teams will field full strength lineups. In United’s case, they will put out a strong side because progressing will be a much-needed confidence boost. The usual suspects will dot the pitch for the Union, because the roster is thinner than The Biggest Loser: Supermodel Edition.

If any new blood enters the Philadelphia lineup, it will be at attacking midfield, where Leo Fernandes and Roger Torres can make a play for increased playing time in front of a suddenly in-form Brian Carroll. If any match was calling out for Torres’ unique brand of cutesy, teasing lobbed passes, it is one featuring DC United’s defensive pairing. This is a unit that couldn’t track runs if they had the NSA’s full support.

Prediction: Union 2-1 winners

With a dedicated playmaker, Philadelphia can hang an early one on United and ride out the storm to a win. It won’t be easy, and United will be desperate, but the Union showed more discipline and shape in the back against Columbus than they have all season. The back five won’t have to be nearly that good to keep DC at bay, but they will have to be better than they’ve been most of the season.

Most importantly, they will have to play fast out of the back. The Union will be counterattacking most of the match, and a good counter starts with quick, efficient passes from the defense. The tenor of the match will be borne from the showdown between the Union’s speedy wingbacks and United’s wide midfielders. If the Union can start counters quickly and get their backs up the field, United will struggle to deal with the numbers, and spaces will open up for Jack McInerney as the defense spreads out to the width of the pitch.

Unlike last season, the Union are the better team entering a US Open Cup match against DC United. They won as underdogs a year ago; now they must play the favorite with that same desperate desire.

Suggested Lineup

UnionDCUSOC

8 Comments

  1. OneManWolfpack says:

    Torres in the middle… wow, I’d be shocked to see it

  2. Smackey the Frog says:

    I have a hunch we’ll see a lineup similar to last week vs. Columbus. Seba out on the right, Casey up front bangning around.

  3. Great One says:

    I actually really like the proposed lineup. The only problem is it won’t happen. We all know Torres won’t start, and Marfan has been getting less love of late.

    • Why should Marfan get any love as of late? He had a bad enough start to the season, and his last 3 games (MTL, OC, and TOR) have been arguably his worst yet. Even if you one tries to give him credit for that terribly weighted assist in the MTL game, he still detroyed the team’s shape and was poor in both possession and passing.
      .
      If any other player had 3 really poor showings in a row, would you continue playing them? If it was a player like Danny Cruz or Keon that was that bad 3 games in a row their heads would be on spikes.
      .
      Adam, I like your preferred 11 as well, minus the Marfan. I like the idea of seeing more from Roger. 10 minutes is not enough time to really make an evaluation, he was merely getting his toes wet. Somebody tell Hack that he is allowed to sub before the 80th minute.

      • Great One says:

        I totally agree, wasn’t saying Marfan SHOULD get love, just that he hasn’t and therefore probably won’t get the start.
        .
        I like Torres with the start, my change would be Le Toux at LW again and Casey up top.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I would run with Farfan tomorrow night. See if he turns it up, now that he is no longer an automatic start. Better DC than NY.

  4. is this broadcasted anywhere ???? all help would be appreciated

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