What might look like a mismatch should be no time for a Philadelphia Union letdown.
The Union are the top team in the Eastern Conference and travel to last-place D.C. United for a game Saturday night.
Philadelphia (13-4-9, 48 points) has lost two of its past three games, most recently dropping a 1-0 road decision Wednesday night at FC Dallas.
There continues to be a balancing act for the Union between solidifying their position atop the Eastern Conference and keeping tabs on the wear and tear of players.
"We're lucky how healthy we've stayed because we are thin in certain areas," Philadelphia head coach Jim Curtin said. "We demand a lot of our players with the style of play we have."
Curtin is prepared to adjust the lineup if the team's own data shows it will be beneficial in the long run.
"We always keep an eye on it," Curtin said. "We know exactly how far they've run. How many sprints they've made. We take that very seriously."
With a rib injury to forward Cory Burke, the Union might bring forward Mikael Uhre back to the starting unit.
"It was really painful for him," Curtin said of the injury to Burke, who is tied for fourth on the club with five goals.
Daniel Gazdag leads the Union with 12 goals. Has scored in five of the past seven games but did not find the back of the net in either of the most recent defeats.
D.C. United (6-15-4, 22 points) have continued to struggle even as Wayne Rooney has taken over as head coach. The team is 0-3-1 this month without scoring a goal in any of the four games as it adapts to a new style.
Rooney refuses to offer a doom-and-gloom outlook.
"There are a lot of positives to take," he said after the club fell 1-0 on the road against Los Angeles FC on Tuesday.
Despite the recent outcomes, there are encouraging developments for D.C. United. Defender Andy Najar is returning to form following a hamstring injury that has bothered him most of the season.
"Over the last few games, we've seen him getting fitter and getting better in each game," Rooney said.
Goalkeeper David Ochoa made his DC United debut in Tuesday's defeat at LAFC, the first-place team in the Western Conference. He made four saves and surrendered the game's only goal in the 67th minute after a D.C. United turnover near midfield.
"Once the whistle blew, the adrenalin took over and it just felt automatic almost," said Ochoa, who was acquired in a trade with Real Salt Lake on July 29.
Rooney said he was impressed with how Ochoa handled the game after not playing at all this season. Ochoa was a key to RSL's playoff run last season. D.C. United's starting goalkeeper, Bill Hamid, is out with a hand injury.
The Union own a dominating 7-0 victory over D.C. United on July 8 at home.
--Field Level Media