D.C. United went into a lengthy MLS layoff with plenty of momentum.
Five games without a victory ultimately led to a coaching change for the Philadelphia Union.
John Hackworth will make his coaching debut Saturday night as the Union try to prevent United from winning four in a row for the first time in nearly four years.
Philadelphia dismissed Peter Nowak, named the franchise's first coach in 2009, on Wednesday after he went 21-30-24 and led the team to its first playoff appearance in 2011. The Union (2-7-2) are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with the second-fewest points in the league.
Hackworth came to Philadelphia after two years as an assistant with the U.S. national team under Bob Bradley.
"I'm not Peter Nowak. I'm John Hackworth and I'm going to do things the way I have done it," he said. "I believe in the players we have. ... You can't change things overnight. We have a lot of work to do. Saturday, we want to compete, put our best foot forward."
Hackworth takes over a club that is 0-4-1 in its last five, falling 1-0 at Toronto in its last MLS game May 26. The Union have been shut out four times and are tied for the fewest goals in the league with eight.
This game will also feature the first MLS game in a Philadelphia uniform for forward Jorge Perlaza, who was acquired from Portland on June 6 for Danny Mwanga. Perlaza had six goals and two assists in 41 appearances with the Timbers.
He scored in his Union debut Tuesday, a 3-2 loss to Harrisburg in a friendly.
Turning things around won't be easy, with Hackworth's first game coming against conference-leading United (8-4-3). However, Philadelphia beat D.C. 3-2 in a physical match in the U.S. Open Cup on June 5.
"I think the last game added onto that (rivalry)," defender Brandon McDonald told D.C.'s official website. "What it's going to bring to the next match is what fans want to see. Grit and fight and a battle."
United have won three straight in MLS play for the first time since a four-game run June 7-29, 2008, and lead the league with 28 goals. They defeated New England 3-2 on May 26 as substitute Maicon Santos broke the tie in the 61st minute.
Santos leads the team with seven goals while Dwayne De Rosario is second with five. De Rosario has scored three goals and registered one of his league-leading eight assists over the last three games.
De Rosario and forward Chris Pontius will be in the lineup Saturday after missing the previous match against the Union - Pontius due to an injury and De Rosario because of international duty.
Their returns, along with several other players getting healthier, could help United end their woes against Philadelphia. Since entering MLS for the 2010 season, the Union are 3-1-1 in all competitions versus D.C.
- John Hackworth