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MLS Preview: Philadelphia Union vs. D.C. United

Luis Silva

D.C. United midfielder Luis Silva celebrates his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer game against the New England Revolution, Saturday, July 27, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)


• With just two losses in its last 10 games, the Philadelphia Union is clinging to a playoff spot.

• Luis Silva has scored in every league game he has played for D.C. United since being traded by Toronto FC.

• Every time these two teams meet, it’s an explosive encounter.

Two teams fully engrained in youth movements, the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United, also have a burgeoning rivalry from geographic and soccer-centric closeness. Despite the large gap in the standings between them, these are similar teams.

Both rely on young goalkeepers, with Bill Hamid and Joe Willis anchoring D.C. and Zac MacMath wearing Philadelphia’s No. 1 shirt. Recently, D.C. boss Ben Olsen has been starting Willis over Hamid, the United States international in line to possibly start for his country someday.

At the forward position, it’s much the same story: Jack McInerney paces the Union attack, although he has not scored in six games. A hot start to the season propelled McInerney to the top of the Golden Boot race and earned him two successive MLS Player of the Month awards in April and May.

Still, McInerney has been good enough recently to earn call-ups to the U.S.’s 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup squad and the MLS All-Star team.

Until signing Luis Silva (pictured) from Toronto FC, D.C. United had almost no attack of which to speak. With captain Dwayne De Rosario injured, Lionard Pajoy and Chris Pontius failed to pick up the scoring slack.

In three games, Silva has done just that. After scoring one goal in each of his first matches, Silva is already his club’s leading scorer in 2013. He seems to be at home in D.C. after never receiving much of an opportunity to succeed at Toronto FC.

Conor Doyle, on loan from Derby County in England, also scored in D.C.’s last league game, a 3-1 home win over the Montreal Impact. He assisted on Jared Jeffery’s stoppage-time sealer at the end of the game.

On Wednesday, D.C. booked its place in the club’s fifth U.S. Open Cup final with a 2-0 win over the Chicago Fire. The Philadelphia Union has a longer turnaround, having last played in a 2-1 loss to the same Fire on Aug. 3.

Both teams are fighting for their seasons, D.C. trying to make its Open Cup success carry over into league play and Philadelphia trying to maintain a playoff spot despite the Houston Dynamo being just one point behind and having two games in hand.

Last season, that fight turned literal during the teams’ 1-1 tie on Aug. 20. Three red cards capped off a game that the Union’s Amobi Okugo summed up by saying, “That’s what it feels like to be in a rivalry.”

With so much at stake for both teams, Saturday’s matchup could be just as fiery.

Follow @liviubird