Union-United Preview


D.C. United were on top of the Eastern Conference two months ago following a victory at Philadelphia.

Perhaps Thursday's acquisition of Lionard Pajoy from the Union for midfielder Danny Cruz will help United move back up the standings.

Pajoy will likely debut for his new team against his old one Sunday, when D.C. looks to match a franchise record with an eighth consecutive home win while the Union try to avoid a season high-tying third straight defeat.

Less than two weeks after losing 2-1 to the Union in a U.S. Open Cup match, United (11-8-3) won 1-0 at Philadelphia on June 16. Chris Pontius' second-half goal ruined John Hackworth's coaching debut for the Union (7-12-2), and it gave D.C. a four-point edge over New York for the conference lead.

"I think we were lucky to get out of there with a 1-0 win," said Pontius, United's leader with 10 goals. "They took it to us most of the game. This is huge for us."

It was D.C.'s season-best fourth consecutive victory, but they've since gone 2-4-0 to fall to fifth place in the East.

"It's not like teams are scoring unbelievable goals, it's our mistakes in positioning or giving up the ball," defender Brandon McDonald told United's official website following a 2-1 loss at East-leading Kansas City last Saturday.

"If we can eliminate those errors, the sky is the limit."

Pajoy, who was tied with Gabriel Gomez for the Union lead with five goals, feels United can still be the team to beat in the East.

"The expectations here are much higher than in Philadelphia," said Pajoy, who joins a team that has scored twice in four matches. "That's the reason I'm here - to win a title."

Philadelphia has similar goals, but its immediate concern is preventing United from winning eight straight at home for the first time since March 21-May 23, 1998.

"When you have that feeling that we had, the feeling that D.C. stole three points from us, we want to go and make sure we give them a taste of their own medicine," Hackworth told the Union's official website. "I'm sure it will make the bulletin board in the D.C. United locker room."

There's already been talk on the D.C. side regarding Philadelphia's Freddy Adu playing his first league match at RFK Stadium since he was traded from United to Real Salt Lake in 2006. Chosen first overall by D.C. in the 2004 SuperDraft as a 14-year-old, Adu had 11 goals and 18 assists during his time in the nation's capital.

"He's obviously a kid that we know has special qualities on the ball and produces some great plays," said D.C. coach Ben Olsen, who played for United during Adu's three seasons with the club. "You make sure you don't give him a lot of freedom and time to do what he wants to do."

D.C. will also have to keep an eye on Gomez (national team duty) and Jack McInerney (red-card suspension) as they return for the Union after missing last Sunday's 3-1 loss to Chicago.

United are 8-0-2 at home since a 1-0 loss to Sporting KC on March 10.