Week 22 Preview: Union vs. DC United

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By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer

It’ll be a rivalry night for the Union as they travel down to the U.S. capital to take on DC United. After a draw against CF Montreal, salvaged by a Quinn Sullivan worldie, the Union will be looking for a more convincing result in their quest for a playoff spot.

The biggest problem in the Montreal game, and one that has plagued the Union this entire season, is the decision making in the final third. Far too many times have fans been able to say that the Union would’ve won had they been better about capitalizing on dangerous scoring opportunities. Jim Curtin couldn’t agree more.

“When we played Montreal that approaches a game where they want it to be slow, we still need to improve on creating chances in those games where a team sits deeper and we have to break down a block,” Curtin stated. “We have to find little ways to break teams down, but we aren’t going to all of a sudden change who we are and put 65 passes together to break a team down. We can sure up the decision making on when to shoot or when to pass. Maybe when to dribble a little more and create a better chance. We are working on all those little things.”

There will also have to be immense strategizing when it comes to putting together a lineup against D.C., seeing as the Union have a rescheduled match against the league-leading New England Revolution on September 3, which falls in the middle of an international break.

“We will be proactive to get guys minutes because you’d like to have a full 90 minutes before playing a game against a great team like New England.” Curtin said. “We will make sure that everyone is fit, but they have that 90 minutes under their belt last time against New England, but the replacement for game fitness is hard to find. Luckily we have a week to build up ahead of that game on Friday.”

This could mean that some young players will get solid looks against D.C., and that Curtin will continue experimenting with different pairings in the attack in order to maximize fitness against New England. If the team really has been committed to rectifying their offensive downfalls against Montreal, these experimental combinations could pay off against D.C.

The Union know how to push D.C.’s buttons. As their last two outings against Washington have proved, they’re comfortable maneuvering the ball out of their own half, and into Washington’s 18-yard box. The fact that Kai Wagner essentially owns the left side of every field in MLS, alongside the defensive prowess of Jose Martinez and the effortless skill in transition from Alejandro Bedoya, means that Philadelphia will enjoy most of the possession in this game. Without key figures like goalkeeper Bill Hamid, centre-back Donovan Pines, winger Paul Arriola, and forward Nigel Robertha, D.C. will struggle to break down a Union side that is all too comfortable playing together in this particular lineup.

Predicted Lineup: Andre Blake, Kai Wagner, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Alvas Powell, Jose Martinez, Leon Flach, Alejandro Bedoya, Daniel Gazdag, Kacper Przybyłko, Sergio Santos

  • Kacper Przybylko is expected to make his return to the starting lineup, which will look very similar to the one against Montreal. Although it’s likely that Curtin will be making some early second half substitutions in the interest of preserving fitness, the goal for the Union has been to start off strong. As long as they can go into halftime leading, they can hold on to three points.

Score Prediction: No MLS game is easy, but the Union never seem to have much trouble handling DC United. This lineup knows each other like the backs of their hands, and with Washington being without key starters in every area of their lineup, it’ll be even more of a cakewalk for this Union side. It shouldn’t be too much to ask to pull together a nice 2-0 win to propel them to second in the table.