Setting: Thursday, September 20 at PPL Park in Chester; kickoff scheduled for just after 8:00 PM Eastern
Broadcast Information: ESPN2/TSN2 (Adrian Healey, Taylor Twellman), ESPN Deportes and RDS2 nationally in the United States and Canada / SportsRadio 610 WIP (Tony Limarzi, Peter Pappas) in Philadelphia / La Nueva 87.7 FM WDCN-LP (Óscar Burgos, Joel Navas, Milton Renderos) in the D.C. area / WatchESPN apps in the United States
D.C.'s Record: 13-10-5 (44 points, fifth in East)
D.C.'s Last Match: W, 2-1 vs. NE
For the D.C. Perspective, Visit Black And Red United
The Philadelphia Union's final stretch of the season continues tomorrow night as they play at PPL Park for the first time in three weeks, hosting I-95 rivals D.C. United. Philadelphia's season will end on October 27, that much is just about assured, but D.C. is one of four teams in contention for the Eastern Conference wild-card spots, the #4 and #5 seeds. Entering Wednesday night's matches, D.C. sits in that #5 seed, the final wild-card spot, thanks to a come from behind 2-1 win against the New England Revolution over the weekend. Crucially, though, as D.C. fights for its first playoff berth since 2007, they will be without Dwayne De Rosario. De Rosario, the reigning league MVP, suffered a grade III MCL sprain while on international duty with Canada, and will miss the rest of the regular season.
Based on the projections of a 10-12 week recovery, De Rosario would likely be ready to participate in the MLS Cup final on December 1 if D.C. makes it that far, but otherwise, he's out until the start of 2013. Losing the reigning MVP would hurt any club, and it does substantially weaken D.C. United. Having said that, they're about as prepared as you can be. Chris Pontius, the California native, who just signed a long-term contract extension with D.C. a few days ago, has 11 goals and three assists on the season. Pontius scored in D.C.'s weekend win, and is expected to shoulder much of the burden left by De Rosario. Some of the pressure will also fall on former Union forward Lionard Pajoy, who has seen six starts with D.C. but only has one goal to show for it, as well as the impressive rookie Nick DeLeon (five goals, four assists). In all, it's impossible to replace a player like De Rosario, but D.C. has strong attacking depth and may just be able to pull things off the rest of the regular season without him.
If only one could say as much about the Union's offense! The past two months have been an exercise in futility for the Union's attacking game. Since their 2-0 road loss to the New York Red Bulls on July 21, the team has scored eight goals in eight matches. Whatever was working for the Union during John Hackworth's first month as full manager of the club is clearly no longer doing the trick. Hackworth has tinkered with his personnel, to be sure, sometimes by choice, and sometimes by circumstances like injury and suspension. Still, though, the same problems remain: not enough high quality chances are being created out of midfield, and the forwards are unable to capitalize on the quality balls that do get through to them. Hackworth said earlier today in his weekly news conference that there will be "a little bit of a twist tomorrow night and you'll see [Jack McInerney] getting a lot more support." What that means, exactly, remains to be seen, but with Michael Farfan out due to suspension, Union fans are undoubtedly eager to see if Hackworth has figured out a way for the team's attack to work its way out of malaise.
Projected starters, injury reports, and assorted match notes after the jump...
Philadelphia: MacMath; G. Farfan, Valdes, Okugo, Williams; Lahoud, Carroll; Torres, Gomez, Cruz; McInerney
D.C.: Hamid; Korb, Jakovic, McDonald, Najar; Pontius, Kitchen, Boskovic, DeLeon; Pajoy, Maicon Santos
For Philadelphia, Krystian Witkowski (concussion symptoms) is out. Bakary Soumare (right knee inflammation) is "questionable". Danny Cruz (left big toe sprain) is "probable". Michael Farfan is unavailable for selection due to suspension.
For D.C., Lance Rozeboom (left knee ACL tear), Daniel Woolard (concussion-like symptoms), Stephen King (inguinal hernia repair), Josh Wolff (lower back disc herniation), and Dwayne De Rosario (left knee MCL sprain) are all out. Marcelo Saragosa (left hamstring strain) is "probable".
- Baldomero Toledo is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In 142 career MLS matches, Toledo has called an average of 25 fouls per match, handed out an average of 3.5 yellow cards per match, given a total of 48 red cards, and has awarded a total of 51 penalty kicks.
- As previously noted, Michael Farfan is unavailable for Philadelphia due to an automatic one-match disciplinary suspension for yellow card accumulation. Brian Carroll, Gabriel Gomez, and Lionard Pajoy are all one yellow card away from also receiving an automatic one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation.
- The Union enter tomorrow night's match winless in 7. Their last win was on July 29, when they beat visiting New England 2-1 on a late Jack McInerney goal.
- D.C. United has not won on the road since June 16, when they defeated the Union 1-0 at PPL Park.
- The Union tied their season-low for shots on goal this past weekend in Toronto, with just a single shot on frame -- and it happened to be the equalizer. The team's 1-0 loss to Seattle back in May also concluded with single Philadelphia shot on goal.