It hasn't taken long for D.C. United to strike up a rivalry with its closest MLS neighbor, the Philadelphia Union.
The ties are plentiful between coaches and players. The matches have been fueled by big plays, confounding calls and nasty fouls. The tone for the matchup's fourth year was set in a preseason meeting in Orlando, Fla., in February, when Dwayne De Rosario was ejected for head-butting former D.C. midfielder Danny Cruz, earning a two-game suspension to start the year.
"They're always lively games," United coach Ben Olsen said. "You want that to a certain extent, right?"
De Rosario didn't want to address his incident this week. But it has a role in the slow start for United (1-4-1, four points), in which De Rosario has contributed zero goals and assists. After a full week of practice following 45 minutes off the bench last weekend, he's expected to start Sunday.
|Union at D.C. United|
|When » Sunday, 5 p.m.|
|Where » RFK Stadium|
|TV » ESPN2|
"Dwayne's always at his best when he gets a lot of games," Olsen said. "He gets in a real groove, and he hasn't been able to do that because of the suspension and injuries up until now."
Last season United and the Union (2-2-2, eight points) met four times. Former United players Brian Carroll and Freddy Adu were instrumental in Philadelphia's 2-1 U.S. Open Cup victory. Before the teams met in MLS play 11 days later, former United manager Peter Nowak was fired by the Union. In August, De Rosario had a penalty kick waved off by an encroachment call in a 1-1 draw at RFK. Lionard Pajoy scored the game-winner against his former team in United's 1-0 win at PPL Park in September.
"I don't like Philadelphia either, to be honest with you," United goalkeeper Bill Hamid said. "I don't like the team. It's always been like a New York and D.C. [rivalry]. Philly is a young group; I am a young guy. So I can relate to their hunger, their nastiness, their will to win. And they like bringing it."