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Match #30 Preview: Philadelphia Union Vs. DC United

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Setting: Thursday, September 29 at PPL Park in Chester; kickoff scheduled for 8:06:30 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: ESPN2 and nationwide (Adrian Healey, John Harkes), ESPN Deportes (Richard Mendez, Giovanni Savarese) and ESPN Deportes Radio (Jorge Ramos, Hernan Pereyra) nationally, with coverage beginning at 7:00 PM Eastern / TSN2 (ESPN2 feed) in Canada

DC's Record: 9-8-11, sixth in East

DC's Last Match: W, 4-1 vs. Real Salt Lake

Philadelphia vs. DC This Season: 0-0-1 (Philadelphia 2 @ DC 2 on July 2)

For the DC Perspective, Visit Black And Red United

After taking a hard-earned point from Sporting Kansas City at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park last Friday night, the Philadelphia Union return home to take on DC United who, despite being sixth in the East, are only separated from first by four points. If there's ever been such a thing as a full log-jam in professional sports standings, Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference is surely it. Call it balanced or call it mediocrity if you wish, but it's what these teams have to deal with. And for the Union, things don't get any bigger than this: after hosting DC tomorrow night, Philadelphia travels to Carson, California to take on Chivas USA on Sunday. Two matches in four nights, separated by some 3,000 miles. In other words, if you've been wondering when the Union would be making up their elusive match in hand on the rest of the East, well, this week is it.

Dwayne De Rosario just about singlehandedly defeated Real Salt Lake last week, taking a hat trick and an assist out of their 4-1 victory, keeping DC in contention and showing that if he doesn't end up with some hardware at the end of the season, someone at MLS has to check to make sure their head is screwed on properly. To say that Philadelphia has to shut him down is an understatement, but if they're watching De Rosario too narrowly, Andy Najar or Josh Wolff might sneak in behind and burn the Union. Fortunately for them, it appears as though they will get Sheanon Williams back very quickly after suffering a concussion (perhaps too quickly, as Union color commentator Taylor Twellman would likely suggest).

For their part, Philadelphia could do with scoring more than one goal. They should have Freddy Adu and Danny Mwanga back from injury and available to start, and if Roger Torres can continue his trend of getting better every match, they might just do it, particularly against a pedestrian DC defense. Zac MacMath in particular has been rock solid between the pipes for the Union, and the number of times he has been out of position since taking over for an injured Faryd Mondragon at the beginning of this week can probably be counted on one hand. Make no mistake: he's the real deal. As much as handling the three-pronged attack of Sporting KC was a challenge, trying to close off the red-hot De Rosario might be an even tougher one for Mondragon and company.

Projected starters, up-to-date injury reports and assorted notes after the jump...

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: MacMath; G. Farfan, Valdes, Califf (C), Williams; Carroll; Le Toux, Adu, Torres; Mwanga, Paunovic

DC: Hamid; Burch, McDonald, White, Kitchen; Sims; da Luz, King, Najar; Wolff, De Rosario

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, goalkeepers Faryd Mondragon and Thorne Holder remain out due to a right ring finger fracture and concussion, respectively, as does Levi Houapeu, who is on Injured Reserve with left ankle issues. Sheanon Williams and Stefani Miglioranzi are considered "questionable" due to a right hamstring contusion and right knee inflammation, respectively. Veljko Paunovic and Danny Mwanga are listed as "probable" despite a left calf strain and a right hip flexor strain, respectively.

For DC, Branko Boskovic, Chris Pontius and Jed Zayner are unavailable thanks to a left ACL tear, a right tibia fracture and a left knee sprain, respectively. Steve Cronin and Dejan Jakovic are "questionable" for tomorrow's match with a right shoulder strain and a left hamstring strain, respectively.

Of note:

  • Ricardo Salazar is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In 140 career MLS matches, Salazar has called for an average of just under 27 fouls per match, handed out an average of between three and four yellow cards per match, given a total of 42 red cards and has awarded a total of 54 penalty kicks.
  • Austin da Luz, Brandon McDonald and Carlos Valdes are all one caution away from receiving an automatic one-match disciplinary suspension for accumulation of yellow cards.
  • DC has scored on seven penalty kicks and conceded six. By comparison, the Union have scored on four and conceded in three. Lots of strange activity in the box for DC.
  • Ten of DC's 41 conceded goals have come in the final fifteen minutes of matches. It seems like this is said just about every week, but if the Union are trailing or level with just a few minutes to go, don't change the channel assuming the match will end with that score.
  • Coming into PPL Park off of a win, DC will try once again to win two MLS matches in a row for the first time this season. DC, New England and Vancouver are the only clubs without back-to-back victories to this point, and given where the latter two are in the standings, it's rather remarkable that DC is in competition for a playoff spot despite that.
Philadelphia makes up its match in hand against the rest of the Eastern Conference as it hosts regional rival DC United. Can the Union propel themselves to first place in advance of a tough cross-country trip this weekend? Or will it be DC taking a statement result out of PPL Park, substantially hurting the Union's playoff chances while exponentially increasing theirs? It ought to be a heck of a match. Hope you can join us tomorrow night for a gamethread!