For the second time this season, the Philadelphia Union make the short trek down I-95 Saturday to RFK Stadium in what could be the last rivalry matchup between the Union and D.C. United at the historic stadium.
Following a disappointing loss to Montreal last week, United host the Union for the second time this season.
“I thought the lack of composure and courage [caused the loss against Montreal],” coach Ben Olsen said. “The second half we had a response, but we are trying to have that kind of response and fearlessness and aggression from the get go and for the entirety of the match.”
Montreal’s only goal came early and “deflated” United. Olsen said the team’s response to the early score was “not acceptable.” United has only picked up seven out of a possible 15 points in the standings at home this season.
“I am not overly concerned,” Olsen said. “I believe this group has a response in it. We are not in the worst spot in the table. We have to focus on the next to games and getting the points we need.”
The title of “worst spot in the table” goes to United’s opponent this week, the Union, who currently sit last place in the Eastern Conference with only seven out of a possible 27 points.
In their previous matchup, D.C. defeated Philly 2-1 with goals from Luciano Acosta and José Ortiz. With several players “moving in the right direction,” United will have more options this weekend.
Forward Patrick Mullins played the most minutes he has played since injuring his hamstring in March. Despite the loss, Mullins was a large part of United’s attempted retaliation against Montreal in the second half.
“I think Patrick Mullins had his best half this year,” Olsen said. “He gave us some life.”
Former Philadelphia Union player Sebastien Le Toux is also an option up top.
“Both are going to play into this and be helpful,” Olsen said. “We have to look at a few different things this week to find balance in mixing things up up also letting guys grow together and keeping that continuity.”
Captain defender Steven Birnbaum will be an option this week after undergoing several weeks of rest due to concussion protocol. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid will also be available after missing last game due to precautionary measures surrounding a groin injury sustained against Atlanta.
Midfielder and defender Nick DeLeon is recovering from hernia surgery and will not be an option outside, according to the Washington Post. Fortunate for United, the club recently re-signed defender Chris Korb who last played for the team in 2015 before suffering a severe knee injury. Korb spent last week in Richmond playing more than 70 minutes with the USL squad, but will be an option for United this weekend.
“That is a positive,” Olsen said. “The reason we didn’t have 18 on the bench [against Montreal] was we thought it was important to give Korb a game and he went down and had 70 plus minutes at Richmond and did pretty well.”
While the team adds a familiar face back to the 18-player roster, United parts ways with another. United and defender Max Tissot mutually agreed to part ways last week. Korb’s signing had some influence on the matter, but at the end of the day all parties agreed the move was the best for the young player.
“With [Tissot], part of it was the Korb situation and part of it was the opportunity for Max,” Olsen said. “Being honest with him and looking at what his year looked like. I think all parties agreed. Great kid. It was fun to coach him for a short amount of time. I’m sure our paths will cross again as he is still young and still growing.”
United looks at their current situation as a growing opportunity, Olsen said. The team will be tested once again at home Saturday, May 13 at 7 p.m. against the Philadelphia Union.
“It is a good chance the group, and myself, and the staff check each other and make sure we understand that we have to all be at a certain level to succeed,” Olsen said.