Scrum. Fight. Red card. Great games.
All are apt descriptions of clashes between the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United. The rivalry between the two teams is genuine among both the fans and the players, creating an atmosphere of excitement on and off the field that competes with even Portland Timbers - Seattle Sounders.
Ahead of tonight's edition of the regional rivalry, I talked to Adam Taylor of Black and Red United, SB Nation's United site, about D.C. and what has happened since the last time these two sides faced one another.
For my answers to Adam's questions, head over to B&RU.
Brotherly Game: What has worked so well for United since these last two met? It's almost like a completely different team.
Black and Red United: New blood. No, literally: I have it on good authority that along with Luis Silva, Toronto sent down some blood transfusion equipment that we used to put a younger man's blood into Dwayne De Rosario's veins and... okay, running that metaphor into the ground got a bit dark, didn't it?
It really is the new faces that have arrived in the last month. Not just Silva, but former US youth internationals Conor Doyle and Jared Jeffrey have upped the ante in all of Ben Olsen's favorite departments. They're more technical than the average United player, and their respective work rates are through the roof. The combined effect has been a rejuvenation of the locker room, increased competition in training, and an unbelievable boost of confidence on the field.
BG: DDR and Pontius both have had step backs from last season. How important is it for them to get back to 2012 form before the playoffs?
B&RU: Playoffs? Playoffs!? Even with United all but mathematically eliminated from the MLS postseason this year, it is still important for DeRo and Pontius to get back to the form that saw the team take second place in the Eastern Conference last year. D.C. will have eight games to perfect things for the US Open Cup Final at Real Salt Lake. Getting ready for that game is the first, second and third priority for United the rest of the season. As we know, RSL is a much stronger club than Chicago this year, especially at the altitude of Rio Tinto Stadium. United's big names will have to be at their best, as will the new guys, for the Black-and-Red to have anything more than a prayer on the road against the league leaders.
B&RU: It's really too soon to tell. Hamid joined Johnson (who's mistake on Wednesday, I'd like to point out, directly led to DeRo's game winning goal in the USOC semifinal) at the Gold Cup and - as is Concacaf's way - dressed along with Johnson and Rimando for every one of the USMNT's games in the tournament. But we haven't seen him on the field yet since he returned to the squad from national team duty. Ben Olsen seems to have named Joe Willis our Open Cup starter, and in preparation for Wednesday's big semifinal, Benny gave Willis the nod in our last league game against Montreal. So we haven't yet seen Hamid on the field since the end of the Gold Cup (or the beginning, for that matter). That said, Hamid has historically responded well to call ups from Juergen Klinsmann, whether or not he's actually seen playing time for the Yanks. Here's hoping he takes another step now that he's gotten to spend a solid month training under Kasey Keller & Co.
United's got some guys coming back from injuries, some with injury scares (potential concussion for Luis Silva, who did not practice on Friday), but I still think we'll see Olsen's recently preferred 4-4-1-1 - Bill Hamid; Chris Korb, Dejan Jakovic, Daniel Woolard, James Riley; Nick DeLeon, Jared Jeffrey, Perry Kitchen, Chris Pontius (or possibly Kyle Porter, if Pontius isn't fully fit); Dwayne De Rosario; Conor Doyle.