The Philadephia Union-D.C. United rivalry has promised to be one of the league’s best from the moment the Union began playing in 2010, but what the rivalry had lacked until now is the sizzle that comes with two strong teams playing for bragging rights.
Article continues below ...
Philadelphia has held up its end of the bargain, putting together a strong first half of the season that has the second-year club in first place in the Eastern Conference. D.C. United has endured some growing pains with a young team and young head coach, but after the recent acquisitions of Dwayne DeRosario and Brandon McDonald, D.C. has the look of a team poised to make a strong playoff charge after three seasons of missing the playoffs.
D.C. United will be hoping DeRosario can provide the missing piece in central midfield to an attack that boasts dangerous wingers and forwards, but McDonald could prove to be an even more important addition by giving the team some much-needed toughness in defense.
D.C. has enjoyed some good stretches of defensive play, but has endured the ups and downs of fielding so many rookies in the back. McDonald is a strong, athletic and no-nonsense centerback who can provide leadership in the back.
We will see just how strong the revamped D.C. side is on Saturday night against a Philadelphia side that has added its own potential difference maker in Veljko Paunovic, who has taken up a starting central midfield role in recent weeks since joining the side in June. He has already produced results in three games, notching an assist and scoring a goal in last week’s 3-2 Philly win against Chivas USA.
The real battle will be between D.C. United’s revamped attack and the Union’s stingy defense. If Charlie Davies is fully recovered from an ankle injury suffered last week, his speed will trouble the Union centerback tandem of Danny Califf and Carlos Valdes, particularly if DeRosario can deliver the sort of sharp central midfield passing D.C. has lacked.
Though it is just the beginning of July, the match is vital for both teams with regard to the standings. Philadelphia currently holds a two-point lead on New York and Columbus atop the East, but with the Red Bulls returning several starters from Gold Cup action, the heat will be on the Union to keep up its current pace.
For D.C. United, there is even more urgency given the team’s desire to return to the playoffs. D.C. is currently one point out of the playoffs, but is jammed along with five other teams within a point of United’s current position. With Sporting Kansas City streaking, Chicago improving and Toronto FC revamping, D.C. will need to start collecting points in a hurry if it wants to start heading in the right direction in the Eastern Conference standings.
There will be more pressure on the home team to produce, and Ben Olsen’s squad could have an edge against a Philly side that still hasn’t quite fully shed the label of road strugglers (the Union is just 2-4-1 on the road this season).
With new playmakers in place on both sides, and two teams badly needing points, the latest installment of the D.C. United-Philly Union I-95 rivalry should be an intense one and the result should tell us a lot about each team’s prospects for the second half of the season.
D.C. United. vs. Philadelphia
D.C. unveils newly-acquired Dwayne DeRosario and Brandon McDonald against a Philadelphia side looking strong and ready to add to its lead atop the East. Can DeRosario work magic right away? Can the Union’s tough defense deal with all of D.C. United’s weapons.
FC Dallas vs. Columbus
This Lamar Hunt Derby features two teams playing very well. The Crew has been riding the energy provided by a strong group of youngsters, and the recent finishing of Andres Mendoza, but Dallas has the defense to shut down the Columbus attack, while Brek Shea
Chivas USA vs. Chicago Fire
The Goats are struggling and their playoff hopes are fading, and things don’t get easier against a Fire team playing good defense and growing in confidence. Sean Johnson is looking like the rookie version that impressed us so much, but Chicago’s attack will need to create more chances to score a rare road win.
San Jose Earthquakes vs. New York Red Bulls
The Earthquakes have to still be kicking themselves for a missed opportunity to beat a short-handed LA Galaxy side, but they can’t dwell too long because they face a desperate Red Bulls side that is welcoming back Dane Richards, Tim Ream and Juan Agudelo from Gold Cup action. If Steven Lenhart can stop trying to headbutt goalkeepers and get back to his goal-scoring ways, the Earthquakes should benefit from the return of Chris Wondolowski. Will Agudelo be able to out-shine his U.S. Gold Cup teammate?
Portland Timbers vs. Sporting Kansas City
A month ago the Timbers were the toast of the town and Sporting KC couldn’t buy a win. Now? The Timbers are sliding badly and KC is unbeaten in seven. The loss of Davy Arnaud is a tough one, but Sporting is still playing well enough to capitalize on a shaky-looking Portland defense. Then again, if the Timbers offense can’t get going again, it won’t matter what the Portland defense does.
Colorado Rapids vs. Houston Dynamo
Conor Casey is suspended with a red card, but the defending champs may still have enough to beat a struggling Dynamo side that can’t quite find a rhythm and hasn’t won on the road all season. The Rapids haven’t exactly been lighting it up either, having given up a staggering seven goals in their past two matches, but with Brian Mullan back, and Omar Cummings on the field, the Rapids will have the edge.
Real Salt Lake vs. New England Revolution
The Revs can’t beat anybody lately and RSL is nearly back to full strength? Looks like a mismatch right? Absolutely, but while New England can occasionally make a game ugly enough to escape with a point, Real Salt Lake just has too strong an attack to not take all three points at home.
Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders
Second-year goalkeeper Brian Perk will be in goal for the Galaxy against a Seattle side riding a hot streak fueled by some results against some weak opposition. The Galaxy will be a much tougher proposition, even with an inexperienced goalkeeper. This will be the game of the week because it has the chance to be a wide-open affair, with far more scoring than we’re used to seeing from past LA-Seattle tilts. The Sounders are playing well, but LA will be the favorites at Home Depot Center.
Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering Major League Soccer and the U.S. national team.