Union-D.C. United Preview
D.C. United’s place atop the Eastern Conference wasn’t threatened despite a disappointing finish to its recent road stretch.
It will have some extra incentive to make sure its return home turns out much better.
D.C. looks to avoid a third loss in four matches across all competitions when it faces the rival Philadelphia Union on Sunday.
United (10-7-5) went 0-2-1 to close a four-game road stretch in league play, falling 2-1 to FC Dallas last Saturday, but it still possesses the most points in the East.
"We’re disappointed in the result, and frankly at this point, the performance," coach Ben Olsen said. "But what are you going to do? You pick yourself up and get better for next week against Philadelphia."
United has had its issues against a Union club that has 13 fewer points. Zach Pfeffer scored in stoppage time to give Philadelphia (6-11-4) a 1-0 win May 17 before Chris Rolfe’s penalty kick in the 85th minute lifted D.C. to a 2-1 home win May 30.
The Union then stunned United 2-1 on June 30 in U.S. Open Cup play.
"A very good D.C. team this weekend, a team we respect a great deal," coach Jim Curtin said. "Alvaro Saborio brings a new element, a target forward for them, so we’ll have to be ready for them."
Saborio was acquired last week from Real Salt Lake in exchange for Luis Silva and will be making his United debut. He had three goals in 14 games with RSL and said he’s excited for a fresh start after falling out of favor with his former club.
He’ll be paired with Fabian Espindola to form a potentially dangerous offensive threat. Espindola will be back after he was suspended against Dallas for red card accumulation.
Those insertions will cause Olsen to use his 22nd different lineup in 23 overall matches.
Curtin said facing Saborio and Espindola, who has yet to play against the Union this season, could confuse his club in an already difficult challenge at RFK Stadium, where United is 7-1-3.
D.C. could be without a few potential starters, though. Chris Pontius (right calf), Sean Franklin (left ankle) and Michael Farfan (right hamstring) are questionable against the Union, losers of three of the last four MLS meetings with United.
Philadelphia fell 2-1 to Toronto on July 18 and also lost a pair of starters. Andrew Wenger suffered a concussion and Richie Marquez sprained his ankle, forcing both to miss this contest.
Fernando Aristeguieta appears ready to play for the first time since June 3, though, and Maurice Edu will be back after sitting out against Toronto because of yellow card accumulation.