Union-United Preview

National Sports

Jim Curtin has taken a “back-to-backs” approach in training ahead of Philadelphia United’s trip to D.C. United.

The Union needed a late goal to snatch a 1-1 draw with CF Montreal last week, with that result seeing them cede second place in the Eastern Conference to Orlando City SC.

Philadelphia have struggled for consistency, winning just three of their last 11 matches, but Curtin has used this week off to work on areas of weakness.

“For the first time in a long time, we had a full week of training,” he said. “We have gone back to basics.

“We can shore up the decision-making opportunities in the final third. Working on all those little things. It’s just getting practice time with the way the schedule has been.”

United have endured a difficult run of three defeats on the spin heading into Saturday’s match at Audi Field, conceding 10 goals across that period.

The Black and Red are still in possession of a playoff spot and head coach Hernan Losada knows how quickly the picture can change with one positive result.

“It’s mental toughness in trying to keep positive,” he said. “The only thing that matters Saturday is the result.

“You know how it goes, when you win two games you’re on top of the East, when you lose two, you’re in seventh.

“We know Philly very well, they know us very well. I see Saturday being a close game. We need to get physical and go all in for the three points against a very difficult opponent.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

D.C. United – Andy Najar

Losada will lose some key players to international duty over the coming days, including versatile Honduras defender Najar. The 28-year-old has got his career back on track since returning to United and has proved equally as important in an attacking sense of late with a goal and an assist in his last three appearances.

Philadelphia United – Sergio Santos

Santos is nursing a hamstring problem but will start this match if declared fit. The Brazilian was the star man when these sides last met, chipping in with a goal and an assist. However, he has scored in just one of his last seven matches since then and is on a four-game drought without finding the net.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– The Union have won nine of their last 10 matches against D.C. United (D1), including each of the first two games this season. The ten straight matches without defeat matches the longest unbeaten run against D.C. in MLS history, tied with New York Red Bulls from 2016 to 2019 and LA Galaxy from 2008 to 2014.

– United have lost three straight matches, conceding 10 times in the defeats. D.C. had lost just two of their previous 11 games (W6 D3), conceding a total of 10 goals over that time.

– Philadelphia are winless in seven straight away matches (D4 L3), including a 2-1 defeat at New England in their last road match. The Union have not lost consecutive away matches, however, since losing three in a row from September 2019 to February 2020 (including playoffs).

– Yordy Reyna’s goal against Atlanta United on Saturday was D.C. United’s first direct free-kick goal in over two years since Wayne Rooney scored one against Columbus Crew in April 2019. Reyna is the first D.C. player other than Rooney to score a direct free-kick goal in three-and-a-half years (Yamil Asad in March 2018).

– Three different Americans (Paxten Aaronson, Alejandro Bedoya, Quinn Sullivan) have scored the Union’s last three goals. Only one of the Union’s previous 31 goals were scored by Americans (also Sullivan) dating back to October 2020.

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