B&RU) D.C. United rested a couple of players for the midweek game, giving Fabian Espindola some more time to rest from a bone bruise and giving Chris Rolfe only 20 minutes in a reserve appearance. United is also likely to swap in some players: for example, Markus Halsti may get his first start since signing for the team in the offseason. Depth is one of the strengths of this team, and so far this year Ben Olsen has been able to mix and match players without too many ill effects.
tBG) The turnaround from 2013 to 2014 was well documented. What has United done to maintain their domination?
B&RU) By continuing to build their depth. In the offseason between 2012 and 2013, D.C. United stayed mostly the same while the rest of the league got better, and they paid for it with one of the worst seasons in MLS history. This past offseason, United continued to build depth while still expecting the same core to start. Jairo Arrieta, Michael Farfan, Markus Halsti, and Miguel Aguilar are all new to the team and have all pressed the presumptive starters for minutes and mindshare. Kofi Opare, who was acquired in the middle of last season and barely featured, and stepped in for the injured Steve Birnbaum and played very well. This kind of competition across the team has made every player responsible for proving they need to keep their spot and it has made the team better.
tBG) The Union-United rivalry is going into its sixth season. As a DC fan, how big a rival is Philadelphia?
B&RU) The D.C. United-Philadelphia Union rivalry is one of the rare ones in modern MLS, that grew organically without the league trying to push it down everyone's throats. It has been helped along by the scuffles (and headbutts) on the field, with the two teams always playing hard and passionately against each other. For me, I would say that the DCU-Union rivalry is on the second tier, one step down from DCU-NYRB, but at about the same level as the New England Revolution. But it is also nice that, for the most part, the two fanbases respect each other, and have been there when each has had their time of need.
Predicted lineup: Bill Hamid; Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Kofi Opare, Taylor Kemp; Nick DeLeon, Markus Halsti, Perry Kitchen, Chris Pontius; Fabian Espindola, Chris Rolfe
Predicted score: If D.C. United are to be a true contender this year, they will need to be ruthless in this game. 2-0 D.C. United.