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Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs. D.C. United

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The Union and United are two teams that have recently started heading in opposite directions in the Eastern Conference. This rivalry match could see the Union get back on track or drop further out of first place.

The Philadelphia Union’s Richie Marquez celebrates his game winning goal against D.C. United.
The Philadelphia Union’s Richie Marquez celebrates his game winning goal against D.C. United.
Trey Madara / Brotherly Game

Game: Philadelphia Union vs. D.C. United

Date: Saturday, July 9th

Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Talen Energy Stadium

Referees: REF: SORIN STOICA, AR1: Claudia Badea, AR2: Logan Brown, 4TH: Jose Carlos Rivero

Television: 6ABC (Philadelphia), NewsChannel 8 (Washington, D.C.), MLS Direct Kick (blacked out in the Washington, D.C. market)

Streaming: MLS Live (blacked out in the Washington, D.C. market), MLS Direct Kick (blacked out in the Washington, D.C. market)

All-time record: D.C. United leads the MLS series 6-7-3. In their last meeting back in May, the Union won 1-0 on a Richie Marquez goal in stoppage time at Talen Energy Stadium.

How the Union will look: With the Union’s attack looking moribund for most of the match, Philadelphia will have to hope that forward C.J. Sapong is fully back from an ankle injury suffered on June 1 against Columbus Crew SC. Manager Jim Curtin said that he was pushing Sapong hard in training this week, and Sapong did manage to go 27 minutes in the Union’s loss to Houston. Without him, the Union may be forced to put Roland Alberg back up top since Sebastien Le Toux (concussion) and Fabian Herbers (right hamstring) are listed as out by MLSSoccer.com.

Going on the assumption that Sapong gets the start, expect an attacking midfield of long time United winger Chris Pontius, Tranquillo Barnetta, and Ilsinho with Alberg and Brian Carroll lying deeper in the 4-5-1. Expect the defense to line up with Keegan Rosenberry on the right, Fabinho on the left, and Richie Marquez and Ken Tribbett in the middle as Josh Yaro will be unavailable for picking up a second very questionable yellow card against Houston. Last but certainly not least, Andre Blake will get the nod in goal unless they’re having a snowball fight in Hell.

How D.C. will look: United will rely heavily on Bill Hamid, who turned in a fantastic performance against Real Salt Lake. Hamid made seven saves against RSL in a 1-1 draw. In front of Hamid will be a patchwork, as United is missing the likes of Chris Korb (right ACL tear), Chris Rolfe (concussion), and Patrick Nyarko (concussion) as well as others due to a rash of injuries. Against RSL, D.C. started a defensive line of left back Taylor Kemp, right back Sean Franklin, and center backs Bobby Boswell and Kofi Opare. Marcelo Sarvas served as the central defensive mid in the 4-1-4-1, behind Fabian Espindola, Nick DeLeon, Luciano Acosta, and Lamar Neagle in the midfield, although new winger Lloyd Sam - freshly acquired from the New York Red Bulls - will be available for selection. Lone striker Alvaro Saborio has four goals in 11 games this season, with his last coming back on May 13.

What to expect: It’s going to be a hot one, so as with any time these teams meet look for lots of fireworks (including actual exploding fireworks after the match). The Union will look to get their first win in three tries and rebound from their first home loss of the season to the Vancouver Whitecaps. D.C. will look to continue their upwards trajectory, not having lost in their last three. If Sapong plays, the Union should be able to reverse their and United’s fortunes. If the Union are forced to again go with an empty set up top, United should be good enough to pull out the win.