Union host United in vital Eastern Conference tilt
Chester, PA – The Philadelphia Union host D.C. United at PPL anticipated Major League Soccer tilt that holds playoff implications in the Eastern Conference and wild card races.
Separated by just three points, United and the Union are both vying for a spot in the postseason, with Thursday night's affair providing a great deal of excitement to the playoff hunt.
Philadelphia holds the third wild card spot with 40 points on the season, while D.C. sits one spot outside the playoff picture with 38 points.
A win for United on Thursday would see them move into a postseason slot at the expense of Red Bull New York, which occupies the final wild card spot with 39 points.
With so much on the line, the atmosphere in Chester promises to be electric, and Kyle Nakazawa is eager for the opening whistle.
"The fans are going to be fully supporting us and it's going to be loud," the Union midfielder told philadelphiaunion.com. "It's a big game for both teams. As players, you can't help but get excited. It's going to be a great night."
Philadelphia was once in a comfortable position in the standings, spending much of the year in at the top of the Eastern Conference. But a string of poor results after the All-Star Game has forced the Union to fight for their playoff lives.
"There is a bit more urgency now with the season winding down," Union defender Danny Califf told philadelphiaunion.com. "It's been like that for the last two weeks. Every match has been really big for us. It's important for us to focus on the fundamentals and not get caught up in records or atmosphere."
Philadelphia will look to its talisman, Sebastien Le Toux, to help turn the match in the Union's favor. While Le Toux is in a fantastic run of form, he is only focused on helping team achieve collective success.
"My confidence is good," Le Toux said. "It's nice for me to get seven goals in seven games, and it's good for my team, but right now my own goals are not as important."
D.C. United are coming off of a 4-1 thrashing of Real Salt Lake, with Dwayne De Rosario providing a first-half hat trick.
After Thursday's match, D.C. will travel to Crew Stadium to face the Columbus Crew on Sunday. Luckily, De Rosario, who was crowned MLS Player of the Week for masterful performance against Salt Lake, says he enjoys playing games in quick succession.
"I like it when the games are like that, fast and furious, Wednesday-Saturday, Wednesday-Saturday because when you're out here training for the whole week, sometimes it's long days," he the club's website. "I like it when you're in and out, in and out, sharp training sessions, and before you know it you're preparing for the next match."
D.C. and Philadelphia split the points in their last contest against one another, playing to a 2-2 draw on July 2. Josh Wolff put D.C. in front in the 44th minute, but was canceled out by a Perry Kitchen own goal. Andy Najar thought he had won the match for United with a goal in the 58th minute, but Carlos Ruiz earned a late equalizer in the 85th minute to salvage a point for the Union.