United-Union Preview

AP - Sports

It's only been one game, but life without Dwayne De Rosario is going just fine for D.C. United.

The upcoming schedule may continue to provide some relief in their search for a playoff spot.

United look to win back-to-back games for the first time in three months Thursday night as they visit the Philadelphia Union, who are winless in seven.

D.C. (13-10-5) was dealt a severe blow when De Rosario, the league's reigning MVP, was lost for 10-to-12 weeks with a sprained left knee suffered during a World Cup qualifier with Canada last week.

The playmaking midfielder is among the league leaders with 12 assists and his seven goals are tied for second on the team.

United fared well without him Saturday, ending a three-match winless streak by rallying for a 2-1 win over New England.

"It's not that DeRo going down fell to the wayside, but it's one of those situations where we were so focused on the three points that we didn't allow (his injury) to overwhelm us," defender Robbie Russell told the team's official website.

D.C. hasn't had back-to-back victories since winning a season-high four straight league matches May 16-June 16, but is in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race and seems to be in good position to make a push.

Beginning with Saturday's victory over the Revolution, United are in the midst of a five-game stretch against teams that are all but mathematically out of the postseason chase. Those five opponents are the only ones in MLS without at least nine victories, and the Union (7-13-6) own the second-worst record in the East.

"Everyone knows where we stand," said midfielder Chris Pontius, the team captain in De Rosario's absence. "What you ask at this time in the season is that you are in the race and that you control your own destiny. We do. We have both of those in our hands."

Continued production from Pontius may be vital if D.C. is going to return to the postseason for the first time in four years. He has a career-best 11 goals after finding the net Saturday to end a six-game drought.

Pontius scored in the 78th minute of United's 1-0 win in their last visit to PPL Park on June 16.

The conference rivals played to a 1-1 tie in D.C. on Aug. 19, when De Rosario missed a penalty kick with three minutes to go. United's Branko Boskovic and Emiliano Dudar were issued red cards, while Sheanon Williams got one for Philadelphia.

That result is part of the Union's 0-3-4 stretch, during which they've mustered four goals.

Williams netted the most recent tally in the 85th minute Saturday, salvaging a 1-1 draw at MLS-worst Toronto.

"Even at the end we thought that we could steal the game," Williams told the team's website. "I think we have to be happy about the second-half performance and that the turnaround was a lot better than the first half."

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