D.C. United begins long road stretch in Philadelphia

D.C. United begin a stretch of eight straight games on the road Saturday afternoon against a Philadelphia Union side that hasn’t looked particularly dangerous at home or away.

United (1-3-2) picked up a 1-0 victory two weeks ago against Columbus Crew SC in what was technically a home match, played some 30 miles from Washington at the U.S. Naval Academy.

They won’t be the home side again until they open their new stadium, Audi Field, on July 14.

However, they will begin the eight-match odyssey with a relatively short trip, only a couple of hours drive north and east to face a team that has become a rival in recent seasons.

“It depends on how you look at a rivalry,” D.C. coach Ben Olsen said. “But if you are looking at proximity and you are looking at physicality, and one team wanting to beat the other team because we are always in that hunt for playoffs, I think that increases the intensity of the rivalry with Philly and D.C.”

Yet both teams sit outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture. D.C.’s standing is easy to explain based on a road-heavy start to the season. Their Audi Field opener this summer will begin a stretch of 15 of 20 home matches to close the season, quite the opportunity to make up ground in the standings.

Philadelphia (1-3-2), however, continues to struggle to score with a remade offense that includes the additions of winger David Accam and attacking midfielder Borek Dockal.

The Union have hit the net only once in their last five matches since a 2-0 victory to open the season against the New England Revolution. That’s despite playing three of those last five at home.

Philadelphia faces a three-match away stretch after Saturday.

“We know now, we have a situation where our backs are against the wall a bit,” Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin said. “We’ll have our home fans behind us. We’ll need them. And again, we’re going to need our guys to roll up their sleeves and fight against a D.C. team that is coming off of a bye week and off or a win.”

D.C. remains without ailing midfielders Russell Canouse and Junior Moreno, which means 18-year-old American youth international Chris Durkin will probably make his third MLS start.

He’ll likely be paired in central midfield with Ulises Segura, who scored the winner against Columbus.

In goal, it’s unclear whether Steve Clark has won D.C.’s starting job after preserving a shutout against Columbus while David Ousted was out injured.

Philadelphia enter relatively healthy, with only defenders Fabinho and Richie Marquez on the injury report.