WASHINGTON – With a nationally-televised match against Philadelphia at RFK Stadium looming on Sunday afternoon (5 pm ET, ESPN2, LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com), D.C. United will play their second consecutive rivalry match in an attempt to break their current three-game losing streak.
After a wild game at RFK against the Union last season and a preseason incident that saw D.C. captain Dwayne De Rosario land a two-game suspension for a headbutt of Philadelphia’s Danny Cruz, the rivalry has had no shortage of intriguing moments since the Union joined the league.
“They’re always lively games,” United coach Ben Olsen said Friday after training. “You want that to a certain extent with the teams that are close to you. There’s a lot of ties, even with being a team that’s only been around for a couple years. Peter [Nowak] was there, we’ve made some trades, a lot of guys know each other for this or that. I’m looking forward to trying to get out of our rut.”
United goalkeeper Bill Hamid said the team has been staying longer than usual after training sessions and talking “every minute of the day” about getting a win against Philadelphia.
“I don’t like Philly either, to be honest with you,” said Hamid when asked what makes this rivalry so chippy. “As far as us and them, it’s always been like New York and DC.
"Philly is a young group, I’m a young guy, so I can relate to their hunger, their nastiness, their will to win. And they like bringing it.”
United have had trouble bringing it thus far as they’ve scored just twice in six matches. A positive for D.C. could be De Rosario’s improving health. After missing a match against Kansas City, De Rosario played a half in last weekend’s 2-0 loss against New York and, obviously, is a key piece to United’s attack. Whether or not the forward pairing of Lionard Pajoy and Rafael, who started against New York, will be shuffled this weekend remains to be seen.
“I feel good right now,” De Rosario said. “Obviously I haven’t played 90 in a while, so I’ll see on Sunday how that goes. But I feel good. I’ve been gradually progressing at training sessions.”
Olsen didn’t downplay De Rosario’s importance to the team and his players maintained that the sole focus of the group is to get back on track with a victory on Sunday.
“Dwayne’s always at his best when he gets a lot of games,” Olsen said. “I’m hoping he can start to put together a couple games. He’s focused and he understands his responsibility right now, as do a lot of our guys.”
Despite the slide, Olsen remained upbeat about the mood surrounding his club.
“The vibe’s fairly good,” he said. “It’s a balance of positivity and carrying a stick a little bit right now. … I’m a fairly optimistic guy and we believe we can start this weekend moving up the table and trying to get better.”