On Sunday evening, DC United will once again renew its rivalry with the Philadelphia Union at 5pm at RFK Stadium (game to be aired on ESPN 2). The start to DC United's season has been anything but pleasant as Ben Olsen's side have only scored a combined two goals. Aside from stellar performances from Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic and an occasional solid performance from Perry Kitchen and Rafael – going forward DC United have been anything but promising. Lionard Pajoy, Chris Pontius and Dwayne De Rosario have all gone missing in key moments in matches, and the finishing touch is just not there both at RFK and on the road.
This weekend could call for a more offensive minded approach, even if it means leaving DC a bit vulnerable at the back. Bill Hamid has been spectacular in net for the Black & Red along with the solid back line of Woolard, Jakovic, McDonald and Korb. As this defensive unit continues to play fairly well alongside one another, Olsen could switch his attack to leaving Pajoy out of the lineup and putting De Rosario in the hole behind Rafael.
It comes without saying that if goals are not produced, DC United are going to fall farther behind in the Eastern Conference. After going large stretches of their last match against the Red Bulls with little of the ball, United should work more in the final third, rather than sitting deeper and settling for long balls. The direction of the match comes from the middle of the park as Pontius needs to up his game. On the other side of the field, Kyle Porter may get the nod over Marcos Sanchez and if both can supply crosses to Rafael and De Rosario – a few goals could be in order.
According to DC United.com Ben Olsen indicated that his side are very predictable on both ends of the pitch. Olsen exclaimed "Are we dynamic enough? We're pretty predictable int he way we go about things. That's just who we are right now. We've got to stay together and dig our way out of it." Certainly, Olsen does have a great point that if his team are to win, predictability needs to go out the window. Furthermore, the 17-match unbeaten run that spanned the latter stages of DC's season last year into this year – seems like a stat of the past.
The Philadelphia Union certainly have plenty of weapons of their own as Jack McInerney constantly moves along the defensive back lines and with his silky play, he is able to elude tackles – and this season has discovered his scoring abilities. As midfielder Sebastien Le Toux has also returned to the Union starting XI, McDonald and Jakovic will have plenty of questions asked of them. As he recently featured in a wide role against Toronto FC in their previous match, the Union did see much better build up play going forward with McInerney and Conor Casey lurking within the penalty area. The Union have struggled this season much like the Black & Red however seem to be better building relationships on the pitch and linking with their defensive options of Jeff Parke, Amobi Okugo, Sheanon Williams, and Raymon Gaddis. The back four have proved frail at times, but will look towards their "front three" to lead them closer to a vital three points come the end of the match on Sunday evening.
Although Olsen and the Black & Red do not seek any scape-goats for their performances, the side has faced a fairly tough opening campaign. United have already faced New York twice, Sporting KC, Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake – none of which were really outstanding performances from DC. The offensive lineup that Olsen continues to employ has yet to pay dividends on the scoresheet; however, with Carlos Ruiz and De Rosario receiving additional minutes, the goals have to be coming in sooner rather than later.