Preview: Union host DC with playoff hopes in the balance
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs D.C. UNITED
PPL PARK, Chester, Pa.
Sept. 20, 2012 (WEEK 29, MLS Game #274)
8 p.m. ET (ESPN2/Deportes; TSN2/RDS2)
A pair of clubs still grappling for their playoff futures meet at PPL Park when Philadelphia Union take on D.C. United before an ESPN2 audience. Union enter the match nearly on the verge of the drop zone, their current winless streak extended to seven games in a 1-1 draw at Toronto FC last weekend. United pulled back into the top five in the Eastern Conference last weekend, coming back for a 2-1 home win vs. New England that snapped a three-game winless run.
WATCH: Philly host United on ESPN2
REFEREE: Baldomero Toledo. SAR (bench): Greg Barkey; JAR (opposite): Corey Parker; 4th: Daniel Fitzgerald
MLS Career: 142 games; FC/gm: 25.0; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 48; pens: 51
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- PHILADELPHIA UNION -- OUT: FW Krystian Witkowski (concussion symptoms); QUESTIONABLE: DF Bakary Soumare (R knee inflammation); PROBABLE: MF Michael Farfan (L hamstring strain); MF Danny Cruz (L big toe sprain)
- D.C. UNITED -- OUT: MF Lance Rozeboom (L knee ACL tear); DF Daniel Woolard (concussion-like symptoms); MF Stephen King (inguinal hernia repair); FW Josh Wolff (lower back disc herniation); MF Dwayne De Rosario (L knee MCL sprain); PROBABLE: MF Marcelo Saragosa (L hamstring strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: PHI: Michael Farfan (caution accumulation; through Sept. 19)
- SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: PHI: Brian Carroll, Gabriel Gomez – DC: Dwayne De Rosario, Lionard Pajoy, Maicon Santos
- SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: PHI: Gabriel Farfan, Michael Lahoud, Jack McInerney, Carlos Valdes – DC: Emiliano Dudar, Chris Pontius, Andy Najar, Dejan Jakovic, Bill Hamid, Chris Korb
- ALL-TIME (6 meetings): United 2 wins, 10 goals – Union 2 wins, 9 goals – Ties 2
- AT PHILADELPHIA (3 meetings): Union 2 wins, 6 goals – United 1 win, 5 goals – Ties 0
- The teams are meeting for the third time this year in league play. They played to a 1-1 draw Aug. 19 at RFK Stadium after United won 1-0 on June 16 in a goal by Chris Pontius. The teams also met in the U.S. Open Cup, with Union advancing after an extra-time victory.
- Coaches record: John Hackworth vs. DC: P2 W0 L1 D1 – Ben Olsen vs. PHI: P5 W2 L1 D2
- Union took a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute. A free kick pinballed to Carlos ValdÈs, who fired a shot that was headed away by United's Perry Kitchen, right to Brian Carroll, and he provided the final touch into the goal from right on the line.
- The home side tied the game in the 71st minute when Branko Boskovic's free kick slid through a bevy of players, then nicked off Union defender Amobi Okugo's head and by the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Zac MacMath.
- The game then exploded over the final minutes. After United Chris Pontius was tripped by Roger Torres in the box in the 87th minute to win a late penalty, the first attempt from Dwayne De Rosario beat MacMath to his right. But referee Mark Geiger ruled there was encroachment -- the scrum that followed saw Boskovic shown a red card -- and on the second try, De Rosario rocketed his shot high over the goal.
- The dramatics weren't done. United defender Emiliano Dudar was handed a straight red three minutes later, while Union defender Sheanon Williams was also sent off with a second yellow in the dying seconds.
- D.C. UNITED (4-3-1-2): Bill Hamid - Dejan Jakovic (Hamdi Salihi 61), Brandon McDonald, Emiliano Dudar (sent off 91+), Chris Korb - Andy Najar, Perry Kitchen, Nick DeLeon - Dwayne De Rosario (Marcelo Saragosa 90) - Lionard Pajoy (Branko Boskovic 57, sent off 89), Chris Pontius.
- PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-2-3-1): Zac MacMath - Sheanon Williams (sent off 95+), Carlos Valdes, Amobi Okugo, Gabriel Farfan - Brian Carroll, Michael Lahoud - Danny Cruz (Antoine Hoppenot 57), Michael Farfan, Freddy Adu (Keon Daniel 69) - Jack McInerney (Roger Torres 80).
Philadelphia Union had their winless run stretched to seven games despite coming back for a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field. Union are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 27 points from 26 games.
- Toronto FC took the lead in the 57th minute. After taking down a long pass from Darren O'Dea deep down the right side, Luis Silva put a ball back across the box that Eric Hassli controlled and buried into the lower right corner.
- But with five minutes remaining, Union found the equalizer. A low cross from Antoine Hoppenot made its way through traffic into the six-yard box and Sheanon Williams -- forward for a free kick that had long since been cleared -- tapped home from close range.
- Union interim manager John Hackworth made one change to the team that reached a scoreless draw with the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium. Jack McInerney started up top in place of Antoine Hoppenot.
- PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-2-3-1): Zac MacMath - Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Amobi Okugo, Gabriel Farfan (Roger Torres 83) - Brian Carroll, Michael Lahoud (Chandler Hoffman 61) - Danny Cruz, Michael Farfan, Freddy Adu (Antoine Hoppenot 71) - Jack McInerney.
- Union saw their winless streak extended to seven games despite coming back for the point at Toronto FC. The club record is eight games without a win, set last season.
- "We didn't play very well today," Union team manager John Hackworth said. "It might have been one of our poorest first-half performances this year. It's a little bit frustrating because it felt like our team was ready to play much better than that after the break; we had a good two weeks of training. But you have to give credit to Toronto because they made it very difficult on us."
- With eight matches remaining in the season, Union are 17 points behind fifth-place D.C. United, holding the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Four of the matches are at PPL Park, but four of the final five will be on the road.
- "Any point on the road at this time of the year is great. – I think we have a lot of things that we need to address from this game in both boxes, offensively and defensively, because going forward, as the season gets a little bit tighter and we get into the playoffs we are not going to create the same number of chances and if we give up the chances the other team is going to punish us for it so I think there is a lot that we have to address," said Hackworth.
- Sheanon Williams scored his second career MLS goal. His first came last July 17 vs. New England.
- "In the second half it had to be different and I think we did that," said Williams. "Even at the end we thought that we could steal the game so I think we have to be happy about the second half performance and that the turnaround was a lot better than the first half."
- Rookie Antoine Hoppenot collected his first MLS assist, setting up the Union equalizer scored by Williams. Hoppenot has two goals for the season.
- Chandler Hoffman returned from injury, making his first appearance since Aug. 12, coming on for the final half-hour of the match.
- "We controlled the ball and that is what we said at halftime. Toronto is coming at us, they are high-pressing, our decisions on where to play have to be better and if you simply roll it from one side of the field to the other, they are going to get tired, they are going to wear down and we started to do that and had some success," said Hackworth.
- After allowing five goals in the first two games of the seven-game winless run, Union have allowed just four goals over the last five, with a pair of clean sheets.
- "I was really disappointed. It wasn't really our defense though, it was overall team defending. I felt like we were second best to every challenge, we didn't get out and put pressure on the ball like we normally do," said Hackworth. "To be fair to Toronto, the game was played on their terms and not the way we wanted to play it and that's a classic battle in soccer, you want to try and dictate rhythm and we certainly didn't do that today, Toronto did."
D.C. United put an end to their winless streak at three games, coming back for a 2-1 win against the New England Revolution on Saturday evening at RFK Stadium. United moved back into fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 44 points from 28 games.
- The Revolution took the lead in the 29th minute. Kelyn Rowe snuck behind United left back Chris Korb and ran onto a through ball from midfielder Diego Fagundez. In alone on goal, Rowe sent a rising shot off the underside of the crossbar and into the goal.
- United answered three minutes. Branko Boskovic, given all sorts of time outside the area, carried forward before dropping a ball for Chris Pontius, who blasted a low right-footed shot from outside the box past Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis.
- The game-winner came in the 63rd minute. Pontius cut his way through a couple of defenders and centered the ball back to substitute Lewis Neal, who quickly sent a left-footed shot by a diving Reis.
- United head coach Ben Olsen made three changes to the team that dropped a 1-0 decision to Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium. Andy Najar, Branko Boskovic and Maicon Santos came into the team, in place of Emiliano Dudar, Marcelo Saragosa and the injured Dwayne De Rosario.
- D.C. UNITED (4-4-2): Bill Hamid - Andy Najar, Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic, Chris Korb - Nick DeLeon, Perry Kitchen, Branko Boskovic (Lewis Neal 56), Chris Pontius - Lionard Pajoy (Robbie Russell 83), Maicon Santos (Hamdi Salihi 67).
- United won for the first time since Aug. 22, and just their second match in their last seven. The trip to Philadelphia now starts a spell of four of their final six games away from RFK Stadium, where they are 10-1-4, compared to 3-9-1 on their travels.
- "We are going to have to do much better than that going forward if we're going to reach our goal," said United head coach Ben Olsen. "After they scored, we snapped out of it a little bit and our urgency was better, but overall nobody on our team today really played great, except Bill Hamid. He made two incredible saves today."
- With Dwayne De Rosario out for the remainder of the season after suffering a knee injury while on international duty with Canada, Chris Pontius scored his 11th goal of the season and added an assist against New England.
- "Whether we have him at left midfield or up top will depend a little bit on his production. If we put him up top, his ceiling can be very high and I think he can take us to the next level. At left midfield, he does a good job, he does a lot of defensive work and is a very complete and smart player," said Olsen. "Chris' focus right now shouldn't be about being anybody he isn't -- in particular with Dwayne's absence -- he just needs to continue to keep doing what he has been doing and if he continues down this path of scoring goals and getting assists and we keep winning, he is doing a good job."
- Pontius scored his first goal since Aug. 4, and now has two goals over the last 10 games since a burst of four goals in a three-game span June 16-30. He also has two assists in those 10 games.
- "I think you don't really try to replace him, you try to just become a team now without Dwayne. You ask everybody to do a little bit more and I thought overall it was a gutsy performance that the guys pulled out together. We are not going to replace Dwayne, it is just not going to happen. So I have got to find the right group now that makes us perform at our best," said Olsen.
- With De Rosario sidelined, Maicon Santos partnered Lionard Pajoy in attack, making his first start since July 15, and just his second appearance since the start of August.
- "We had two big time changes out there, two forwards that have never played together and you throw Branko [Boskovic] in the mix. I think that was part of the rust and our balance was a little bit off," said Olsen. "And again, we are missing a guy that has played for us every game so now we are changing things up a bit so there is that rust and then there is also the rust from just being off for a weekend. We haven't done so well coming off of bye weeks."
- Boskovic made his first start since Aug. 11 and recorded his fifth assist this season, his first since June 30, when he had the last of his four previous assists which all came within a five-game span.
- "Branko's not 90 minutes fit, so we knew at some point he was going to have to come off. It just looked like he was starting to fade a little bit," said Olsen. "It is tough because Branko offensively gives you some real magic and the set pieces he put in today I thought were really good but there was starting to be a cost to that."
- Lewis Neal came on for the final 34 minutes and scored his first MLS goal. "I just left Pontius to do his work as he usually does down the wing and I held back on the edge of the box and thankfully he cut back inside and he played it to me and I was lucky enough to just get a decent foot on it and guide it into the corner," said Neal. "It was great, we needed to win. It is pretty obvious how important tonight's win was."
- Said Olsen: "I thought Lewis came in and really changed the game and slowed us down a bit, kept possession, won some tackles and was pretty diligent doing the work next to Perry Kitchen. I thought that helped and then he gets the goal, which is great, and I'm happy for him to get the winner."
- After not featuring at all over the last three matches, Hamdi Salihi came on for the final quarter of the contest.
- "That's what happens when Dwayne goes out. Everybody goes up a spot and needs to contribute and I thought Hamdi did a good job," said Olsen. "It is good to get him those minutes and he had two great chances and I think that is a very good role for him going forward. We have a lot of faith in him and he can score goals. I think he is going to play a part if we have success in these next six games."