Preview: Philadelphia host DC in vital East showdown

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PHILADELPHIA UNION vs D.C. UNITED
PPL PARK, Chester, Pa.
(WEEK 29; MLS Game 277)
September 29, 2011
8 p.m. ET (ESPN2/Deportes; TSN2)

A huge game in the Eastern Conference is ahead before an ESPN2 audience on Thursday night at PPL Park when Philadelphia Union play host to D.C. United. The clubs are separated by just two points in the East entering the week in a conference where six teams are separated by just four points. Union are coming off a 1-1 draw at Sporting Kansas City – a point ahead of them in the East – while United are coming off a 4-1 home win against Real Salt Lake.

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REFEREE: Ricardo Salazar. SAR (bench): Peter Manikowski; JAR (opposite): Steven Taylor; 4th: Terry Vaughn
MLS Career: 140 games; FC/gm: 26.9; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 42; pens: 54

INJURY REPORT:
PHILADELPHIA UNION – OUT: GK Faryd Mondragon (R finger fracture); GK Thorne Holder (concussion); FW Levi Houapeu (L ankle strain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Sheanon Williams (R hamstring contusion); MF Stefani Miglioranzi (R knee inflammation); PROBABLE: FW Veljko Paunovic (L calf strain); FW Danny Mwanga (R hip flexor strain)
D.C. UNITED – OUT: MF Branko Boskovic (L ACL tear); MF Chris Pontius (R tibia fracture); DF Jed Zayner (L knee sprain); QUESTIONABLE: GK Steve Cronin (R shoulder strain); DF Dejan Jakovic (R hamstring strain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES:
none

SUSPENDED:
none

WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD:

PHI: Carlos Valdes
DC: Austin da Luz, Brandon McDonald
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS:
PHI: Danny Califf, Brian Carroll, Danny Mwanga, Sheanon Williams
DC: Charlie Davies, Dwayne De Rosario, Ethan White

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (3 meetings): United 1 win, 6 goals … Union 1 win, 5 goals … Ties 1
AT PHILADELPHIA (1 meeting): United 0 wins, 2 goals … Union 1 win, 3 goals … Ties 0

  • When the teams first met this year, Carlos Ruiz scored in the 84th minute as Union twice came back from a goal down before the teams finished in a 2-2 draw, July 2 at RFK Stadium.
  • The teams split their two meetings in Union’s inaugural season, each winning on their home ground. Union’s 3-2 win vs. United, April 10 at Lincoln Financial Field, was the first in club history.
  • Coaches' records: Peter Nowak vs. DC: P3 W1 L1 D1 … Ben Olsen v PHI: P2 W1 L0 D1

LAST MEETING (MLS)

  • 7/2: DC 2, PHI 1 (Wolff 44; Najar 58 – Kitchen 49 og; Ruiz 85)
  • United took the lead a minute before halftime. A clever ball from Andy Najar found De Rosario on the left side of the box, and after drawing two Philly defenders he slid a square pass to Josh Wolff who stabbed the ball home.
  • But Union were even just four minutes into the second half when Perry Kitchen's attempted clearance of a Veljko Paunovic cross clattered off his shin and past Bill Hamid into his own goal.
  • United took the lead back in the 58th minute through a tremendous individual effort from Najar, who was given time and space to hare forward before letting fly with a shot from 35 yards that sailed past a diving Faryd Mondragón.
  • But the visitors again got the goal back, this time with five minutes to play. Sheanon Williams drove a low cross into the area from the right corner and Carlos Ruiz re-directed it past Hamid for the leveler.

D.C. UNITED (4-1-3-2): Bill Hamid - Perry Kitchen, Ethan White, Brandon McDonald, Daniel Woolard - Clyde Simms - Andy Najar, Dwayne De Rosario, Chris Pontius - Charlie Davies (Blake Brettschneider 57), Josh Wolff (Fred 68).

PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-1-3-2): Faryd Mondragon - Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, Jordan Harvey - Brian Carroll - Sebastien Le Toux, Veljko Paunovic (Gabriel Farfan 66), Justin Mapp (Jack McInerney 78) - Danny Mwanga (Keon Daniel 71), Carlos Ruiz

PHILADELPHIA UNION

Philadelphia Union weren’t able to make it two wins in a row, but still came away with a point after a 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City on Saturday evening at Livestrong Sporting Park. Union have 40 points from 29 matches on the year, in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • Sporting took the lead 11 minutes into the second half. Kei Kamara chipped a delicate cross to the back post for Omar Bravo, who beat a defender to the ball and lashed it past goalkeeper Zac MacMath.
  • But Union drew even just seven minutes later. Michael Farfan was able to keep the ball alone on the endline and laid it back for Sebastien Le Toux, who hammered home the equalizer from the corner of the six-yard box.
  • Union manager Peter Nowak made three changes to the team that defeated the Columbus Crew 1-0 at PPL Park. Kyle Nakazawa started for Sheanon Williams at right back, and Amobi Okugo and Veljko Paunovic came back into the team for Freddy Adu and Zach Pfeffer.

PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-3-1-2): Zac MacMath - Kyle Nakazawa (Zach Pfeffer 62), Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, Gabriel Farfan - Brian Carroll - Roger Torres (Stefani Miglioranzi 72), Amobi Okugo, Michael Farfan - Sebastien Le Toux, Veljko Paunovic (Jack McInerney 57).

TEAM NEWS

  • The draw in Kansas City extended the Union unbeaten streak to four games, but also came after three consecutive home games and after losses in their last two road games.
  • “I believe that every point at this stage is very valuable whether you play home or away,” said Union manager Peter Nowak. “We see the standings are tight right now. We are happy with our effort. We have been preaching the whole season long even last year that we need to be consistent with our game. I think this is another game that we play good 90 full minutes of a high intensity game.”
  • Sebastien Le Toux has seven goals in his last seven games, having again scored in back-to-back games, in a stretch where Philadelphia has scored 10 times. After 22 games this season, Le Toux had just one goal.
  • “My confidence is good. It’s nice for me to get seven goals in seven games, and it’s good for my team, but right now my own goals are not as important. It’s good to get a point tonight and it’s what we needed and we are happy with that,” said Le Toux.
  • Le Toux had 14 goals and 11 assists last year in Union’s inaugural campaign and was named to the MLS Best XI. Since the start of last season, no player in MLS has more combined goals and assists that Le Toux; Landon Donovan (LA) and Dwayne De Rosario (DC) are tied for second at 38.
  • Amobi Okugo made his second start in the last five games in central midfield, after going nearly four months without an appearance in the first XI.
  • “He’s not the only one, I think Jack McInerney came in and changed the game, as well. … Okugo, with Brian Carroll and even (Zach) Pfeffer,” said Nowak. “It was a big game out there, another big game for him and you have to be ready, whether he is going to get pushed off the ball or not. He is a kid that wants to learn and especially be in a game like that.”
  • Union allowed a goal for the first time after back-to-back shutouts, the Bravo goal snapping the shutout streak at 293 minutes as rookie Zac MacMath made his fourth consecutive start.
  • “I thought we did really well,” MacMath said of the backline. “[Sporting] put a lot of pressure on us. They were trying to put crosses in and I thought we dealt with it pretty well. We were unfortunate not to get the shutout.”

D.C. UNITED

D.C. United concluded their two-game homestand in impressive fashion, exploding for a 4-1 win against Real Salt Lake on Saturday evening at RFK Stadium. United have 38 points from 28 games on the year, sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • United took the lead after just 13 minutes. Dwayne De Rosario picked out a streaking Andy Najar with a diagonal ball that split the RSL back line, and Najar outraced a defender before hammering an angled shot home past goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
  • Najar returned the favor for De Rosario nine minutes later, looping a long, curling cross into the area that De Rosario headed past Rimando.
  • Five minutes later, De Rosario had his second and D.C.'s third. A bouncing ball was deflected by Josh Wolff into De Rosario’s path, and he curled a shot into the upper corner from outside the penalty area.
  • De Rosario completed his hat trick just four minutes later. From a free kick some 35 yards out on the right, he caught Rimando cheating towards his far post and curled his effort inside the upper corner of the near post.
  • Alvaro Saborio scored a late consolation goal for Real, firing home from close range after he was left completely alone to run onto a pass from Paulo Junior.
  • United coach Ben Olsen made three changes to the team that reached a 2-2 draw with Chivas USA at RFK Stadium. Marc Burch came in for Daniel Woolard at left back, and Stephen King and Austin da Luz came into the side for Santino Quaranta and Charlie Davies.

D.C. UNITED (4-1-3-2): Bill Hamid - Perry Kitchen, Brandon McDonald, Ethan White, Marc Burch - Clyde Simms - Andy Najar (Brandon Barklage 81), Stephen King, Austin da Luz - Dwayne De Rosario (Joseph Ngwenya 65), Josh Wolff (Blake Brettschneider 74).

TEAM NEWS

  • United will once again try to win back-to-back games. They have not been able to put together consecutive wins at all this season, along with New England and Vancouver the only teams without a winning streak.
  • “I’ve tried everything and it’s been up and down. It’s a little bit of who we are right now,” said United head coach Ben Olsen. “But at some point that has got to change, and hopefully it’s this week. At some point it’ll just click. We have to forget about any success we had as quickly as possible and focus on doing our job consistently. That’s the trick this week.”
  • Dwayne De Rosario scored the earliest hat trick in MLS history, all three of his goals coming before the 31st minute in the 4-1 win against Real Salt Lake. De Rosario’s three goals in nine minutes is tied for the thirdquickest hat trick in MLS history; Harut Karapetyan of the LA Galaxy scored three goals within five minutes in 1998.
  • De Rosario, the only player in MLS history to score for three different teams in one season (also scoring this year for Toronto and New York), moved into the lead in the MLS Golden Boot race with his 13 goals, one ahead of the LA Galaxy’s Landon Donovan.
  • “The thing with DeRo is that I am not even surprised anymore with some of the stuff he does. I’ve seen it as a fan of his and I’ve also seen it being on the other side for 10 years. This is what he does and this is why we wanted him,” said Olsen.
  • Since coming to D.C. United in a trade with the New York Red Bulls, Dwayne De Rosario had scored 10 goals and added six assists entering the week. United went 4-3-5 in those games after the 4-1 win against RSL.
  • “He’s just been exceptional and the guys have jumped on his back as well and rode the wave today. The great thing about Dwayne is that he will forget about this [performance] and move on and try to do it again. But even for him, I’m sure it was a very memorable game,” said Olsen.
  • Stephen King made just his seventh start of the season, his first since mid-August, in a central midfield role.
  • “It was a good game from [Stephen] King. He had probably the best game I’ve seen him play. He broke up a lot of plays, he played at certain spots that were tight and gave us good possession,” Olsen said.