Short some starters, United is looking to end a winless run in MLS play against the Union that dates back over four years
D.C. United returns to MLS action today with a challenging road match against the Philadelphia Union. While the Union’s form of late has been a bit middling (1W-3D-1L), four of those games were on the road, and they recently came back to get a draw against the Red Bulls despite being down to ten men.
With United short three starters, it’ll be a big challenge for the Black-and-Red to show they can succeed against the top teams in the East. It’s also a chance to end arguably United’s worst run against a single opponent: Philadelphia has won eight of the last nine non-Open Cup meetings, and the odd result was merely a draw. United has not beaten the Union in MLS since early 2017.
Key player: Frédéric Brillant
After being first choice in United’s first six games, Brillant has only started once in the subsequent six, as Brendan Hines-Ike has been moved inside and Andy Najar has offered so much on the right of the back three. However, with Hines-Ike out for a minimum of six games and Donovan Pines away with the USMNT, Brillant’s return to the lineup seems assured for this set of three games in eight days.
Brillant hadn’t really been struggling when he was dropped, but he’ll still have to bring his best against a Union team that can bring size in Kacper Przybylko and speed with Sergio Santos. United’s defense only let down once in the last meeting, but that was enough to end up losing. With the disruption to the back three, Brillant’s leadership and passing out of the back will both need to be on full display if United’s going to take three points in Chester today.
Location: Subaru Park (Chester, PA)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (343) – Bill Hamid; Andy Najar, Frédéric Brillant, Steven Birnbaum; Julian Gressel, Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, Kevin Paredes; Yamil Asad, Nigel Robertha, Adrien Perez
Bench: Jon Kempin, Tony Alfaro, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Joseph Mora, Felipe Martins, Moses Nyeman, Griffin Yow, Kimarni Smith, Ola Kamara
Let’s start with the positives: Drew Skundrich is off the injury report, leaving United short two official injuries (Hines-Ike and Edison Flores), plus two internationals (Pines and Paul Arriola), and one visa applicant (Erik Sorga).
All of that leaves Hernán Losada needing to make three changes at a minimum to the side that clobbered Toronto 7-1. Brillant seems like a sure thing at the back, while it’ll most likely be Birnbaum (if United believes he can play long enough without issue) or Alfaro at left-center back.
It’s the third change, replacing Arriola, that is the most complicated. We’ve got Asad listed, but it could be Yow, or possibly Mora coming in as a wingback and Paredes playing higher, or maybe a formation switch to a 352 (meaning a start for Felipe or Nyeman) or 3412 (where we could be talking about Robertha and Kamara pairing up).
Projected Philadelphia starting 11: (4312) – Joe Bendik; Olivier Mbaizo, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Kai Wagner; Alejandro Bedoya, José Martinez, Leon Flach; Daniel Gazdag; Kacper Przybylko, Sergio Santos
Jim Curtin is without Andre Blake (Gold Cup) as well as his back-up Matt Freese (suspension), so Bendik starts in goal. Blake is one of three players away with Jamaica, with potential starting forward Cory Burke and right back Alvas Powell also unavailable. Jamiro Monteiro, the Union’s best midfielder, is also suspended, so Curtin has plenty of things to sort out today.
With Anthony Fontana out injured, we’re expecting Gazdag to start as the attacking midfielder, but we could see him and Bedoya swap spots. Up front, Santos seems like a solid bet to start.
Referee: Alex Chilowicz
Available TV: NBC Sports Washington, TeleXitos
Feel free to check our our DCU how to watch guide to figure out what your best option is.
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: We have a full episode of Filibuster previewing this game and what’s going on with Philly these days.
What are you drinking?: It’s looking like it’ll be limoncello seltzer for me at kickoff, and a Dead Rise gose after the press conference ends.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos breaking that unreal streak in this series!
Black and Red United has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Black and Red United and Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our guiding principles.