By DAN KARELL
In the team’s four year history, plenty of bad blood and tension has been built up between the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United.
This Sunday, the Union return to RFK Stadium for the first time since August 19, 2012, where both teams played to a 1-1 draw that finished ten men on nine. Nine cards were shown, and the tensions boiled over towards the end of the match, with two red cards being shown to D.C. United and one to the Union.
This time around, manager John Hackworth says he hopes that cooler heads can prevail.
“Both teams got involved and the official was a part of it, and there was all kinds of craziness what happened,” Hackworth said during his weekly press conference. “I hope we don’t have the antics late in that game.
“At the same time, I wouldn’t go down there expecting anything less.”
Here are some more notes from the Union press conference:
NO DECISION SET ON KLEBERSON
In the 79th minute of last Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Toronto FC, Union designated player signing Kleberson made his first appearance for the club, replacing Ray Gaddis.
After coming on, Kleberson helped give his side a spark in the midfield, nearly setting up his teammates on two occasions that could have won the game for the Union. Despite getting into his first career Major League Soccer game and another week on the training field with his new teammates, Hackworth has yet to decide whether the former Brazilian World Cup player will be starting this weekend.
“Kleberson has put himself in a position where he definitely is deserving of being selected,” Hackworth said. “I think we still need to be patient and try to judge whether it makes sense for him to play a role as a starter or coming off the bench. I don’t think we’re ready to make that decision yet.”
The overall fitness levels and adjusting to a new country could certainly be reasons that the 33-year-old isn’t yet in the starting lineup, but it looks like he will be available off the bench again this Sunday.
UNION ARE WARY OF PAJOY AND RUIZ
Despite only scoring once this season, the Union have set a target on the back of Leonard Pajoy, the 31-year-old forward for D.C. United.
The former Union front-man was traded last August for Danny Cruz, but because of the familiarity with the club and the fact that he scored against the Union last September, Hackworth believes that his team’s defense is going to have to keep him in their sights at all times.
“He [Pajoy] has been really good against us,” Hackworth said. “He has had some frustrations this year, so it’s a little scary because a player of his quality you think is due [to score].”
In addition, Hackworth mentioned forward Carlos Ruiz, who has played a role off the bench this season.
“Carlos is slowly ramping up with them, I would expect him to play a pretty big role on Sunday,” Hackworth said. “We’ve just got to prepare for those guys, but the fact that we know them is good.”
EMPTY INJURY TABLE
For the first time in a long time, the Union don’t have anyone nursing any injuries. Midfielder Matt Kassel has returned to first-team training after sitting for a couple of weeks with a right knee strain, and although he isn’t in full training with the squad, everyone else is participating at a high level.
What do you make of these statements? Do you see Kleberson playing a big role? Do you believe that the Union can keep a cool head at RFK?
Share your thoughts below.