Preview: DC look to solidify playoff spot against Philadelphia

DC vs. PHI. 8-19-12

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D.C. UNITED vs PHILADELPHIA UNION
RFK MEMORIAL STADIUM, Washington, D.C.
August 19, 2012 (WEEK 24, MLS Game #232)
5 p.m. ET (NBC SN; TSN2/RDS2)

A crucial match in the MLS Cup Playoffs chase is ahead on Sunday afternoon on the NBC Sports Network as D.C. United play host to Philadelphia Union at RFK Stadium. United enter the weekend grimly holding onto fifth place in the Eastern Conference and the final playoff berth, after their loss at Sporting Kansas City last weekend. Union saw their postseason ambitions take a hit in a loss at Chicago, now 13 points behind United in the table, despite having games in hand over nearly the rest of the conference.

REFEREE: Mark Geiger. AR1 (bench): Adam Wienckowski; AR2 (opposite): Brian Dunn; 4th: Matthew Foerster
MLS Career: 99 games; FC/gm: 26.3; Y/gm: 3.7; R: 23; pens: 33

DOWNLOAD FULL GAME GUIDE HERE (PDF)

INJURY REPORT:

  • D.C. UNITED – OUT: MF Lance Rozeboom (L knee ACL tear); DF Robbie Russell (L plantar fasciitis); DF Daniel Woolard (concussion-like symptoms); DOUBTFUL: FW Dwayne De Rosario (L shoulder soreness); QUESTIONABLE: FW Maicon Santos (R toe soreness); PROBABLE: FW Hamdi Salihi (viral infection)
  • PHILADELPHIA UNION – OUT: FW Krystian Witkowski (concussion symptoms); QUESTIONABLE: FW Jorge Perlaza (low back strain); DF Gabriel Farfan (L ankle sprain); MF Michael Farfan (L foot contusion); PROBABLE: MF Jimmy McLaughlin (L shoulder labral tear); FW Antoine Hoppenot (L hamstring strain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:

  • SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: PHI: Gabriel Gomez, Michael Farfan
  • SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: DC: Maicon Santos, Chris Pontius, Dwayne De Rosario, Andy Najar, Dejan Jakovic … PHI: Brian Carroll, Carlos Valdes, Lionard Pajoy, Gabriel Farfan

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (5 meetings): United 2 wins, 9 goals … Union 2 wins, 8 goals … Ties 1
AT RFK STADIUM (2 meetings): United 1 win, 4 goals … Union 0 wins, 2 goals … Ties 1

FUTURE MATCH: 9/20: Philadelphia Union vs. D.C. United, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN2/Deportes)

  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Chris Pontius – who was later named MLS All-Star Game MVP with his performance vs. Chelsea FC at Union’s PPL Park – scored the game’s lone goal for D.C. United’s win June 16 in Chester.
  • Union recorded a 2-1 win in a third-round U.S. Open Cup match at the Maryland Soccerplex on June 5. Goals from Philadelphia's Brian Carroll and D.C.'s Josh Wolff right at halftime sent the match to overtime, where Antoine Hoppenot scored the game-winner five minutes into the extra session.
  • Coaches record: John Hackworth vs. DC: P1 W0 L1 D0 … Ben Olsen vs. PHI: P4 W2 L1 D1

LAST MEETING (MLS)
6/16: PHI 0, DC 1 (Pontius 78)

  • The game's lone goal came in the 78th minute, when United's Chris Pontius finished off a Branko Boskovic free kick, tapping in from close range.
  • In the first game in charge for interim manager John Hackworth, Union generated the majority of scoring chances putting nine attempts on goal and three shots on target, but United goalkeeper Bill Hamid held firm.
  • PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-2-3-1): Zac MacMath - Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Amobi Okugo, Gabriel Farfan (Jorge Perlaza 82) - Michael Lahoud, Brian Carroll - Freddy Adu, Michael Farfan, Josue Martinez (Antoine Hoppenot 62) - Jack McInerney (Chandler Hoffman 74).
  • D.C. UNITED (4-3-1-2): Bill Hamid - Robbie Russell, Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic, Daniel Woolard - Andy Najar, Perry Kitchen, Nick DeLeon (Lewis Neal 61) - Dwayne De Rosario - Maicon Santos (Branko Boskovic 72), Chris Pontius (Hamdi Salihi 80)

D.C. UNITED
D.C. United weren’t able to build on a victory, falling 2-1 to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday evening at Livestrong Sporting Park. United are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 36 points from 22 games.

LAST MATCH

HIGHLIGHTS: SKC 2, DC 1

  • Sporting took the lead just 13 minutes into the match. A corner kick from Graham Zusi found Teal Bunbury just outside the 6-yard box, and Bunbury snapped the header home.
  • United answered just 10 minutes later, though, after a determined run and deft pass from Andy Najar. He drove down the right side, then into the middle, and lofted the ball to Nick DeLeon in the penalty area, who controlled the ball and poked it past KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
  • After Zusi was twice denied by the woodwork, game-winner came in the 63rd minute. Kei Kamara’s cross from the left side sailed past Bunbury in front of goal, and Zusi was there to clean up, running onto the ball and driving the ball between goalkeeper Bill Hamid's legs.
  • United head coach Ben Olsen made two changes to the team that defeated the Columbus Crew 1-0 at RFK Stadium. Mike Chabala came into the back four for Daniel Woolard and Andy Najar started in place of Dwayne De Rosario.
  • D.C. UNITED (4-1-3-2): Bill Hamid - Chris Korb, Brandon McDonald, Emiliano Dudar, Mike Chabala (Danny Cruz 80) - Perry Kitchen - Andy Najar, Branko Boskovic (Marcelo Saragosa 46), Nick DeLeon - Chris Pontius, Long Tan (Josh Wolff 71).

TEAM NEWS

  • The loss was the fourth in a row on the road for United, who fell as low as fifth place in the Eastern Conference for the first time since the start of April. They lead the Montréal Impact by just four points for the final playoff position in the division – though the expansion club has played four more games.
  • “I have to search for the reasons why we had an off night, but I didn’t like much about the way we played,” United head coach Ben Olsen said. “They were better than us in every aspect of the game."
  • For the first time in a league match this season, Dwayne De Rosario was out of the lineup, unable to feature after suffering a shoulder injury.
  • Daniel Woolard missed a league match for the first time since the second game of the season (March 18), after suffering a concussion.
  • “We missed a couple guys today. The list goes on and on, but it’s still not an excuse to have the performance we had tonight,” Olsen said. “That’s not too much of a concern. My concern is the way this group played.”
  • Said goalkeeper Bill Hamid: “We had a lot of guys, all guys that are suffering with injuries, but we did well without them and we’re definitely wishing them well and hoping they get back on the field as soon as possible.”
  • Mike Chabala, acquired from the Portland Timbers in a trade, made his United debut at left back almost immediately after joining the club.
  • “He’s going to come in and certainly give us not just some depth but some good quality at left back,” said Josh Wolff.  “This is about as tough a team as you are going to face with some of the matchups they can cause with the wingers. I thought he handled himself well. I thought it was a tough night for us, but he hung in there and grinded [it out].”
  • With strikers Hamdi Salihi and Maicon Santos also both unavailable, Chris Pontius moved from a wide midfield spot to pair with Long Tan as the strike partnership.
  • After missing three matches while with Honduras for the XXX Olympic Games in London, Andy Najar was thrust back into the United lineup, playing 90 minutes after creating the opportunity that led to the D.C. goal.
  • Andy [Najar] took one two or three guys and I saw him making his run. He played in a beautiful ball to me,” said Nick DeLeon. “The chance was created by him and it was well done. It is what it is. Andy brings a different dynamic to the outside. He's a good player going one-on-one.”
  • On Thursday, United sent midfielder Danny Cruz to Union in exchange for striker Lionard Pajoy. Both players will be available for selection against their former clubs at the weekend.

PHILADELPHIA UNION
Philadelphia Union lost back-to-back games for the first time under interim manager John Hackworth, dropping a 3-1 decision to the Chicago Fire on Sunday evening at Toyota Park. Union are in a tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 23 points from 21 games.

LAST MATCH

HIGHLIGHTS: PHI 1, CHI 3

  • Union took a 1-0 lead in the 34th minute after a long cross from Freddy Adu sailed just over the head of rookie Chandler Hoffman and bounced off Chicago defender Jalil Anibaba and into the net for an own goal.
  • But the Fire struck back with two goals into the right net before the halftime whistle blew. Their first came in the 43rd minute when Sherjill MacDonald beat center back Bakary Soumaré to the end line and crossed it to Chris Rolfe for a one-time finish.
  • The Fire struck again in first-half stoppage time when center back Arne Friedrich headed home a Marco Pappa corner kick just inside the near post.
  • The visitors built their lead to a commanding 3-1 in the 56th minute when Rolfe netted his second goal of the game – and fourth of the season – after dribbling downfield and blasting a shot from distance off Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath’s hand and into the back of the net.
  • Union interim manager John Hackworth made four changes to the team that dropped a 2-0 decision to the Montréal Impact at Stade Saputo. Bakary Soumare and Raymon Gaddis came into the back four, Keon Daniel entered the midfield and Chandler Hoffman started up top, with Carlos Valdes, Michael Lahoud and Lionard Pajoy all out of the side and Jack McInerney suspended.
  • PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-2-3-1): Zac MacMath - Sheanon Williams, Bakary Soumare, Amobi Okugo, Raymon Gaddis (Lionard Pajoy 62) - Brian Carroll, Gabriel Farfan - Freddy Adu (Antoine Hoppenot 46), Michael Farfan, Keon Daniel - Chandler Hoffman (Josue Martinez 69).

TEAM NEWS

  • Union have now lost three of their last four matches, following a three-game winning streak, after suffering back-to-back losses for the first time with John Hackworth in charge of the club.
  • “This was an extremely disappointing match by the Philadelphia Union,” Hackworth said. “It’s not the kind of performance that is acceptable to us in any way, shape or form. That said, I think I have to take some responsibility for that result as well. I don’t think our team was ready for Chicago in the first half and clearly that was my responsibility.”
  • The three goals allowed were also the most in the 10 games since Hackworth has been interim manager, and matched the most allowed by the club this season.
  • “The concern is that we’ve given up two restart goals late in the half, and that’s man marking,” Hackworth said. “Some of it’s where you’re turning balls over and things like that that’s managing the match, but you’re going to have those, and for us to be susceptible like that is not good enough.”
  • Bakary Soumare finally made his Union debut, coming into central defense and playing 90 minutes. His return to MLS action had been delayed since his signing from US Boulogne in France’s Ligue 1 because of a knee injury.
  • “It was good being out there playing 90 minutes. I was a little rusty, obviously, but I’m glad I got to play,” said Soumaré. “My knees have no pain, so I’m very happy about that. Fitness-wise, it was OK. I was cramping at the end but, for the most part, it was pretty good.”
  • The introduction of Soumare into central defense came with center back Carlos Valdés away on international duty with Colombia. Valdés missed his first league match of the season, having been off the field for just 12 minutes in MLS contests before the absence.
  • “I was really proud of Baky because that’s the first time he’s played in a long time,” Hackworth said. “There is no substitution for getting game rhythm. I haven’t talked to him yet but he’s a good enough pro that he knows he can improve. And he will, I’m absolutely certain of that.”
  • Rookie Raymon Gaddis also made his first appearance since June 23, starting at left back and playing 62 minutes.
  • Gabriel Farfan was pushed forward from fullback into the center of the midfield, with Gabriel Gómez also away on international duty, with Panamá.
  • “We’re just missing a couple key guys, for sure, but that is an opportunity for younger guys and guys that haven’t been playing to step up, and seize their opportunity,” said Hackworth. “Actually, I thought those guys in particular did pretty well. So not upset with those performances at all.”
  • With Jack McInerney suspended, rookie Chandler Hoffman started up top, his first appearance since June 16 and fourth of the season. He was coming off a broken toe, and nearly was credited with his first career professional goal.
  • “Freddy played it in and I thought I got a little flick on it. It definitely touched my head and I was going to celebrate like it was mine but it ended up being an own goal. It is unfortunate we couldn’t hold onto the lead,” Hoffman said. Said Hackworth: “Chandler is a guy that came in with some big shoes to fill in Jack Mac. He did a good job. He is telling me he flicked that ball, so I’m giving him credit for the goal.”
  • On Thursday, Union sent striker Lionard Pajoy to United in exchange for midfielder Danny Cruz. Both players will be available for selection against their former clubs at the weekend.