A little thing called rest
After a busy stretch for the Union, they will finally get a week of rest before heading on a short road trip to DC. After 3 games in 7 days there should be no excuses for heavy legs and lifeless form like we saw against Houston. In that three game span Maurice Edu and Ray Gaddis have played 300 minutes, Ethan White 262, Andrew Wenger 261, Seba LeToux 247, Cristian Maidana 239 and Vincent Nogueira 230 being the heaviest lifters.
On the flip side of that rest, DC is coming into the match without the benefit of a weeks rest, having traveled to Jamaica in the CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday the 16th, to Chicago for a league match up on Saturday the 20th, and then a home match in the CCL against Costa Rican side Tauro on Wednesday the 24th. DC did a great job of rotating their roster through those games, using 24 different players and having only 1 player play more than 180 minutes.
The Union and United sit in very different spots right now in the conference. DC is atop the standings, but Sporting KC just 3 points behind and New England 6 points back. Dropping points could see that hold of the top spot loosen enough to give one of those teams a foot in the door. The Union on the other hand fell off Columbus' pace to the 5th and final playoff spot with their draw last week. Now 2 points back from Columbus and 3 from New York, there is ground to make up.
Is this a must-win game? No, we're not at that point yet in the season. However, with New York heading to LA to face the Galaxy and New England heading to Kansas City there is a real opportunity to make up some ground in the playoff chase. Keeping Columbus within less than 3 points is key though. If that gap widens to 3 or more points it means that the Union will be forced to win both games against Columbus the rest of the season to even have a chance of making the playoffs.
It has been a draining week on the Union, not only in terms of minutes played, but in results. Within the league the Union gambled against the Red Bulls, resting several starters and barely squeezing out a draw and then a tired team was held against a struggling Houston Dynamo team, also at home, it what could only be described as a missed opportunity and 2 dropped points. The US Open Cup final was 120 minutes of pure emotion that came crashing down as Seattle's substitutions were the difference and the Sounders finished the night celebrating on the PPL Park pitch.
DC United's league form has been struggling after a loss to New York was followed up by a 3-3 draw in Chicago that was not void of controversy. DC has not won in the league in the month of September. They've also been dealing with the CCL Champions League, as previously stated, and their win in Jamaica against Waterhouse gave them control of the group, needing just a single point from their last two games against Tauro to clinch the group and a knockout berth.
Williams - Valdes - Edu - Gaddis
Nogueira - Okugo
LeToux - Maidana - Wenger
No reason to rush White back even if he does recover from injury in time. Curtin has a very obvious favorite starting XI and if he was willing to start them against Houston on short rest, there is no reason he should feel the need to make changes, except for injury, on a full week of rest.
DC United 1-2 Philadelphia Union
These match ups are always testy and anything can happen, but with DC playing their 6th game in 21 days I am expecting a late Union win as they outlast their rivals. No points are easy in this series and if the Union can come out with all 3 points it will go a long way to energizing the team down the stretch to push for the playoffs.