D.C. United, Philadelphia Union connections run deep

I-95 rivalry has a storied history that dates back to before MLS' inception

It’s going to be a busy weekend for the I-95 rivals at both the youth and professional level. While the D.C. United First Team gears up to take on the Philadelphia Union, the D.C. United Academy is also training hard in preparation for their matches against F.C. Delco.

Although the Union only joined the League in 2010, there is storied history between D.C. and Philadelphia dating back before Major League Soccer even began. D.C. United Head Coach Ben Olsen, Philadelphia Union defender Chris Albright and D.C. United great and former Philadelphia Union youth technical director Alecko Eskandarian all followed similar paths.

Ben Olsen and Chris Albright started at FC DELCO, and all three MLS standouts played collegiately at the University of Virginia, then made their MLS debuts with D.C. United. Olsen, being the oldest, played for DELCO and became a UVA Caviler in 1995. The year he won Soccer America Player of the year and the ACC Tournament MVP—1997—was the same year Chris Albright debuted as a rookie for UVA. Olsen left later that year, entering the League as a Project-40 player, and was allocated to D.C. United.

Albright followed soon behind. He was named an All-American in 1999, then entered MLS as a Project-40 player, helping D.C. United to win its 3rd MLS cup during his rookie campaign.  Albright and Olsen spent three seasons together with the Black-and-Red (1999-2001).

Eskandarian, the youngest of the three, entered UVA as a freshman in 2000. The standout forward earned the Herman Trophy in 2002 and was picked 1st overall in the 2003 MLS SuperDraft by D.C. United. Seasoned vet Ben Olsen and then- MLS sophomore Eskandarian helped lead United to its 4th MLS Cup, making League history. After retiring, Eskandarian was a volunteer assistant coach at UVA and then became the youth technical director for the Philadelphia Union, where he worked until 2012.

D.C. United will face the Philadelphia Union this Sunday, April 21 at 5:00 P.M. on ESPN2. D.C. United Academy U-18s take on FC Delco U-18s on Saturday, April 20 at 11:30 a.m., soon followed by the U-16 match up at 2:00 p.m, both at Hammond High School (Turf Field) in Columbia, Md,.