By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer
The Union will be looking for three points to stay competitive in the Eastern Conference, while visitors DC United will be looking to close the gap on the home team to just one point with a win of their own. Severely shorthanded and having only taken two points from their last three games, it’s looking like an uphill battle indeed for the home side.
The Union have won their three previous home games, not to mention keeping a clean sheet in each of those games, but as things currently stand, they haven’t seen three points in their last four matches. They can boast that they’ve gone unbeaten in their last nine matches against United—eight of which were wins—but several factors call the certainty of another victory for the Union into question.
For starters, third-choice goalie Joe Bendik will most likely be starting in net, given that Andre Blake is competing in the CONCACAF Gold Cup with Jamaica, while Matt Freese is serving his red card suspension for denial of a goalscoring opportunity against the New York Red Bulls.
Then, there’s the problem of Kacper Przybylko. The Polish striker is usually the most reliable Union player in terms of scoring goals, but he’s failed to find the back of the net in four straight games. While talented and capable, Sergio Santos simply can’t shoulder the offensive responsibilities alone. With the defense significantly weakened by Blake’s absence, offense is arguably more important than ever.
The midfield diamond has been doing its job in terms of creating goalscoring chances, but the finishing from the Union has been poor, to say the least. It’s incredibly frustrating to see the creativity, skill, and cleverness displayed by players like Leon Flach and Alejandro Bedoya get the ball into prime scoring position, but the strikers fail to capitalize on the chance.
D.C. is coming into this game on a jaw-dropping 7-1 win against Toronto FC. While Toronto is dead last in the Eastern Conference standings, this result goes to show just how ruthless DC’s offense can be. The battle for the top spot in the East is cutthroat and narrow as can be, and there’s no doubting that Hernan Losada’s men will be out for blood in this match.
Predicted Lineup: Joe Bendik, Kai Wagner, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Aurelien Collin, Jose Martinez, Quinn Sullivan, Alejandro Bedoya, Jamiro Monteiro, Sergio Santos, Kacper Przybyłko
- Jim Curtin doesn’t have much of a choice when it comes to starting Bendik in goal, but there is hope in that the Union’s stellar back four will be able to keep DC’s goals to a minimum. While it would be questionable to drop Flach in favor of Sullivan, it could also be a shrewd move, considering how DC have been utilizing their own young talent in blossoming left-back Kevin Paredes. The matchup of youthfulness could easily play in the Union’s favor, but the rest of the midfield have to cooperate with Sullivan’s still relatively fresh face, and the strikers have to convert his skillful passes into much-needed goals.
Score Prediction: The Union must take three points away from this game, which is a fairly doable task against DC United. They’re entirely capable of this 2-1 win, but knowing the Union, it won’t come easy. It will be undoubtedly be an intense 90 minutes, but Curtin’s men have proven that they don’t stop fighting until the final whistle blows.