WASHINGTON – Another weekend, another chance for D.C. United to do something they haven’t done yet this season.
After winning back-to-back matches across all competitions for the second time this year via Wednesday’s inspired US Open Cup semifinals victory against Chicago, United now have an opportunity to win consecutive MLS matches for the first time all year as well as a chance to win a regular-season road MLS match for the first time since Oct. 6, 2012.
“There’s a good vibe going on throughout the team right now,” said midfielder Nick DeLeon of the team's matchup against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday (8 pm ET, NBCSN). “And to be honest, I haven’t felt that since the very start of the season. Moving forward, I’m feeling very good, really optimistic, and it’s pretty damn cool to be playing for a championship.”
The importance of United advancing to the Open Cup championship – to be played Oct. 1 at Rio Tinto Stadium against Real Salt Lake – can’t be stressed enough. Instead of trudging through the final 12 matches of the season, mixing and matching lineups and drawing on various sources for motivation, the club now has a clear goal to work toward.
“Being candid, getting to the finals gives us something to build toward more than your average looking forward to next year and trying to build a rhythm and looking to see what guys will be a part of this in the future,” United head coach Ben Olsen said following Friday’s training session. “Now there’s a real game and a real chance to win something in a month and a half.”
They’ll attempt to win something much sooner than that against Philadelphia on Saturday at PPL Park. United eliminated Philly in the Open Cup, 3-1, but lost to the Union, 3-2, when they met at RFK Stadium earlier this season.
The status of D.C. midfielder Luis Silva, who has scored three goals in three league matches with United, is up in the air after he was hit in the mouth against Chicago. Olsen said Silva had tests on his head on Friday, but he hasn’t yet been ruled out of Saturday’s lineup. Olsen also said that Bill Hamid will replace Joe Willis in goal after missing five matches in a row while on US men’s national team duty.
“The last two games, I’ve noticed that there’s a team out there playing for each other and doing all the little things,” Olsen said, also referring to a 3-1 victory against Montreal. “Concentrating on the fundamentals and bailing each other out. That’s what it takes. It takes more than that, but if you start with that every game, you start to change things around.”