Preview: D.C. United vs Philadelphia Union

Black-and-Red hosts I-95 rival for first 2013 regular-season battle

Coming off a 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls last Saturday, D.C. United looks to get back on track this Sunday April 21 against the Philadelphia Union at 5:00 p.m. on ESPN2.

After giving up two goals in the first half, the Black-and-Red battled hard to make a comeback against its rival from the north. New York’s Thierry Henry netted the first goal of the game in the 29th minute and Jamison Olave soon followed—finishing a cross from Juninho that had been flicked on by a Brandon Barklage header in the 36th minute.

The Philadelphia Union faired a bit better Saturday afternoon. The drama came late in the game when Robert Earnshaw found the net first, putting Toronto FC up 1-0 in the 71st minute. Five yellow cards and one red card later (there were ten total cards), the Union’s Jack McInerney netted the equalizer in the 93rd minute. Philadelphia escaped Week 7 with one point, making its record 2-2-2.

The I-95 rivalry began in 2010, when Philadelphia, an expansion team, was added to Major League Soccer. Matchups between the two teams always promises to be a battle.

“It’s a real rivalry now,” said D.C. United midfielder Chris Pontius. “It tends to be a nasty game…it will be chippy. We are prepared for that.”

Over the seven total MLS regular-season matches between United and the Union, there have been 166 fouls, 22 yellow cards and 10 red cards. Holding a slight edge over Philadelphia, United boasts a 3-2-2 overall regular season record. The Black-and-Red has also found the goal 11 times to the Union’s nine. The Union has also never shut out D.C. United across all competitions.

“It’s always been a challenge every time we played Philly,” said D.C. United captain Dwayne De Rosaio. “So we can pretty much guarantee it’s going to be another battle on Sunday.”

Having already met twice this year, the fierce rivals are well acquainted. The first preseason meeting ended in a 1-1 draw with an equalizing penalty kick from Kyle Porter, while the second, just three days later, saw a 2-0 United victory. Black-and-Red captain Dwayne De Rosario finished a penalty kick to break the score line, followed by a second goal from former Philadelphia Union forward Lionard Pajoy.

“It was almost like it was a real MLS game, where you’re going at it—both teams trying to win,” explained Pontius. “We got a good glimpse of what they’re going to bring.”

Despite several preseason tallies, D.C. United is off to a slow start this season, struggling to find its scoring form á la 2012.  After finding the net twice thus far in the 2013 regular season, training sessions and team mentality have been focused heavily on an finding that attacking mentality.

“The bottom line right now is getting three points,” De Rosario said, keeping the message simple.