From the River End: Previewing PHI/DC
- Updated: April 18, 2013
Come Sunday, two teams that have quite a bit of animosity towards each other will face off at old RFK Stadium. It’s time for the I-95 Rivalry; not the one that takes place at Red Bull Arena, the Union need to actually pick up a win first at RBA before calling that a rivalry. No, this I-95 rivalry match is between Philadelphia and DC, two sides who both have showed time and time again that they don’t like each other very much, with red and yellow cards a plenty to be accounted for.
The last time the Union and United met (has anyone ever pointed out that this is also the battle of the U?) at RFK, things got quite out of hand. Despite a relatively quiet first half, the final five minutes of this match saw chaos erupt. The Union had just given up an own goal on a bad clearance from Amobi Okugo that found the back of the net and were now locked in a 1-1 draw. On comes Roger Torres who pretty much immediately after running the on to the pitch, pulls down Chris Pontius in the box, drawing a penalty. Dwayne De Rosario makes the PK, but it’s called back when much loathed referee Mark Geiger calls encroachment on DC. He takes the kick again and completely whiffs, bailing out the Union.
Obviously at this point United is more than ticked off, which results in a scuffle that sees the first of three red cards given. Branko Bosko would be sent off after the scuffle, giving the U a ten man advantage…and then a nine man advantage. Emiliano Dudar would be shown a red after a reckless challenge on Antoine Hoppenot. United would gain one of those men back though after Sheanon Williams was shown his second yellow for bringing down Chris Pontius. Despite getting his foot on the ball before bringing down Chris Pontius, the card stood and Williams had to sit out the next match.
There are two questions you’re probably asking yourself right now: 1. What did this accomplish and 2. Why do I need to know so much about this game? The answer to question one is nothing. Even with an extra man on the field, the Union could not walk out of RFK with a win, which they should have. Number two is the most important though. If you thought that match was bad, this one is going to be worse and here’s why. Not only have both these sides come out and said, ‘we don’t like you very much,’ but DC also has two former Union players who were perhaps unceremoniously dropped from the team in Carlos Ruiz and Leonard Pajoy. In turn, the Union’s own Danny Cruz played for United for most of the 2012 season.
Put all those factors together and you have yourself a pretty ugly game coming up. This one won’t be pretty; there will be a lot of starts and stops, but ultimately, it’s going to end with a Union victory. DC is coming off a string of bad losses, while John Hackworth’s Union squad, despite two draws and a loss in the past three weeks, look like the much better team. Look for Hackworth to deploy a similar, if not the same lineup he did against Toronto, with three forwards (Le Toux, McInerney, Casey) up front. Although a bit of a homecoming, also look for Danny Cruz to sit this one out in favor off Michael Lahoud while Jose Kleberson will almost certainly take Keon Daniel’s spot in the XI. Kleberson proved in just 11 minutes of play that he can create chances for this offense, so it would come as no surprise if he ends up being some kind of factor in this one.
The biggest key to a Union victory will be getting into a rhythm, because if they can do so, that’s when they become dangerous. The first 45 minutes of the season opener proved that.
With Jack McInerney’s four goals this season and Conor Casey’s superb play so far this season, these two can become quite a deadly combination. And even though Sebastien Le Toux has been quiet so far this season, he’s always good for a goal.
Prediction: The Union win this one 2-0. The original consensus on the Podcast was 2-1, but thinking more on that 2-0 loss to Red Bull, DC is in bad shape. McInerney and Casey both pick up goals on the way to a big three points for Philadelphia.
Union vs. United is this Sunday at 5:00 p.m. ET and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2. Both The Soccer Desk and Philly Sports Live will have live Twitter coverage of this one followed by full post game analysis. Look for Dan Stelly’s match preview from DC’s point of view a little later tonight. Dan will also be joining us on The Soccer Desk Podcast this Monday to discuss the result of this match in even more depth.