DC United vs. Philadelphia Union Prediction, Preview and Odds - 5/23/21
DC United plays host to the Philadelphia Union in what will be each team’s seventh game of the 2021 MLS season when play starts Sunday night from Audi Field in Washington D.C. Philadelphia is coming off back-to-back positive results over their last three games, getting a win last time out and then, a draw during the midweek action last week, and then another win to get the streak started. The Union sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings with eight points. DC United lost a tough one last time out against Orlando City and only have two wins on the season and no draws, finding themselves in tenth place with only six points thus far. Last year saw these two teams face off against each other twice, with a draw and a Philadelphia 4-1 win being the two results. DC United will be looking for redemption this time around, but which team will get the points in this rivalry match?
United Eyeing Scoring Opportunities
Through six games on the year, DC United has only scored multiple goals once so far, and that was all the way back in the season opener. In the five games since, they’ve failed to score in two of the games and then only scored a single goal in the other three. DC United missed out on the playoffs last season, and over the last five years have failed to get past the first round even once, and they know they need an improved scoring output this year to take that next step potentially. Wayne Rooney’s attacking prowess was missed last year without a doubt, and Ola Kamara ended up being last year’s leading scorer with only three goals. Last year’s squad finished 13th in the Eastern Conference and 24th overall in MLS, and so far this year’s team seems to be a step behind their opponents as well. Their minus-five goal differential is tied for third-worst in the league and last week’s game left much to be desired going forward for the club.
Kamara returns from last year’s team, where he was the leading goal scorer, but has struggled to make his presence well known this year, sitting on only a single goal in three games. The veteran has extensive experience throughout Europe, but just hasn’t been able to complete the picture since his move to North America. Edison Flores is a big name within the side now that he’s taking up a Designated Player spot, but like Kamara, he only has a goal to show for himself as well. D.C. United needs one of Kamara or Flores to take over the brunt of the attack, and if one of them can take hold of things up top or on the wings, this offense can very drastically change its outlook in a short span of time. D.C. United isn’t without other talents on the roster, but it just doesn’t seem in the cards for them right now to find this all new output from players like Julian Gressel and Paul Arriola.
On the backline, DC United has experienced leader Steve Birnbaum, who they need to take hold of the defense and keep them locked in infront of youngster Jon Kempin. DC United only have five homegrown players as well, and none appear to be as dynamic as needed to compete at a high-level yet, which has really hurt the development of the club. DC United seems to have a link missing between the veterans and the youngsters and that gap in both leadership and on the field ability will continue to limit the club, especially from a technical and tactical standpoint, at least in the short term.
Union In Strong Run Of Form
The Philadelphia Union have only dropped two points in their last three games, with wins over Chicago and the New York Red Bulls, and gaining a draw against the New England Revolution. The CONCACAF Champions League schedule has thrown a slight wrench into their game-planning for the year, but not nearly as much as some of their opponents, given that the Union only had to face Atlanta in the last round as opposed to a Mexican club. Last year’s team finished first in not only the Eastern Conference but in MLS as a whole, but a first-round exit continues to be a tough pill for the team to swallow. 2019 saw them finish third in the Eastern Conference but still only get to the quarterfinals. This is a dangerous team though with a lot of pieces back who can make life very difficult for the DC United on Sunday, even as the road team.
Cory Burke surprisingly leads the team with two goals in five games, while more household names, like Alejandro Bedoya and Anthony Fontana, are yet to make an appearance on the scoresheet yet. Those latter names continue to be dangerous pieces and with some of the more unknown players also finding their voice within the club now, the Union seem to be getting stronger and stronger with each passing game. The big difference for the Union is having Andre Blake in the back to control his own box and contribute quick decisions and distribution to get the Union out and moving. Blake is an international star with Jamaica and has been linked with moves abroad as well, but the former UConn Husky and MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, will surely keep DC United’s already struggling defense at bay.
One player to keep an eye on is Paxten Aaronson, little brother of former Union star and current European, Brandon Aaronson. Paxten is still quite raw, both technically and tactically, but he has the tenacity and innate understanding of the game, to make life really difficult. Unlike DC United, Philadelphia also has homegrowns who are already competing during valuable minutes. Matt real and Jack de Vries are two players that have already made their mark with the community, while there are a number of others who are developing. Unlike DC United though, the Union won’t need to rely on homegrowns to produce valuable wins, and the Union’s experienced lineup will be a huge advantage on Sunday.
Pick: Union (+145)
The Union are under a strong run of form right now, which means a lot in soccer, especially with them going on the road. They haven’t dropped a game in weeks and they visit a DC United side that is struggling to find themselves, whether it’s scoring, reliable defense, or even leadership. The last goalkeeper that a team that can’t score goals, like DC United, will want to see is Andre Blake, one of the best goalkeepers in the league. Blake will make that net appear even smaller for a frustrated DC attack and to see this finally be the game in which they score multiple goals doesn’t add up. For the Union, they still bolster an attack filled with USMNT and USYNT stars, who have found ways to play well together and over the course of less than two months, already seem capable of a table-top finish in at least the Eastern Conference. The trajectories and confidence of these two teams don’t match, and the Union will use their depth to wear down DC over the course of the game and come away with a win.
Pick: Over 3
Neither of these teams necessarily light up the scoreboard, but historically they find ways to put up goals against each other. It wouldn’t be a shock at all to see DC United bag one goal based on the talent they have, but they’ll also struggle to limit their opponents to just a goal as well. The Union have a balanced attack that knows how to find the back of the net at other levels, and it’s only a matter of time before their goal-scoring and finishing as a team drastically improves. In the last four meetings, at least four goals have been scored in each one and in the fifth meeting, three goals were scored.