Match previews

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs. Seattle Sounders

Who: Philadelphia Union (10th place, 36 points, 9-9-13) vs. Seattle Sounders (4th place, 47 points, 12-11-8)
What: 2017 regular season game
Where: Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pa.
When: Sunday, October 1 at 1 pm
Watch: ESPN, MLS Live
Whistle: Mark Geiger, Assistants: CJ Morgante, Matthew Nelson, 4th official: Geoff Gamble: VAR: Katja Koroleva

Which Philadelphia Union side will show up on Sunday? Any guess is as good as the next. One match it’s total control and the next it’s an utter outclassing. The past week has been a roller coaster for Philadelphia, and now it’s time to play for the third time in eight days against a perennial league power in Seattle Sounders.

On the bright side, the match is being played at Talen Energy Stadium, where the Union have earned eight of its nine wins this season. It’s been over six weeks since the last home loss, but last weekend’s win over Chicago was also the first in almost two months. In short, it’s tough to predict anything at all when it comes to the Boys in Blue, and the Sounders are not who you want in town amidst uncertainty and inconsistency.

Seattle has taken three out of the last four from Philadelphia, including the 2014 US Open Cup final played at then PPL Park. The Union’s last win in April of 2015 came from a completely different squad in a completely different scenario — one not so dire. The hosts are hanging on by a thread in the Eastern Conference, while the visitors are firmly in the playoff mix in the West.

Win, or the season is all but over. Although, many fans think it is already.

Scouting report: Seattle Sounders 

Seattle has become a household name in MLS, which is why the sluggish start to the season (just one win in the first six matches) was surprising. Lately, though, the Sounders have been rock solid. They’ve dropped just one match since June 28, and it came last weekend against Real Salt Lake. Before that was a stretch of four straight draws prefaced by four out of five wins.

U.S. National Team star Clint Dempsey typically headlines the club, but it’s names like Stefan Frei and Chad Marshall that win matches. Seattle’s defense has held opponents to under three goals in 26 of 31 matches this season and 37 goals conceded overall is good for 5th in MLS. Frei is also tied for the league lead with 10 clean sheets. It’s defense first in the Emerald City.

On the other end of the pitch, you’ll find Dempsey and company, who are still plenty capable of scoring. The 34-year-old forward has nabbed 11 of Seattles’ 45 goals on the year, with the likes of Will Bruin (8) and Nicolas Lodeiro (4) pitching in. Lodeiro and defender Joevin Jones each lead the team with 11 assists in all competitions and Cristian Roldan has threatened with six goals out of the midfield.

With forward Jordan Morris nursing a hamstring injury, Dempsey was alone up top as Seattle opted for a “false 9” look in its latest 3-0 win over Vancouver on Wednesday. If this happens again in Philadelphia, Roldan will man the middle with Lodeiro and Victor Rodriguez out wide. MLS veteran midfielder Osvaldo Alonso and defender Roman Torres are both questionable with injuries, but the rest of the back line should be intact in front of Frei.

Three road wins on the season isn’t particularly impressive, but the Sounders are simply solid throughout the side. It will be tough for the Union to break them down.

  • Injury report: OUT: D Brad Evans (lower back), F Jordan Morris (hamstring strain), M Calum Mallace (quad strain); QUEST: M Osvaldo Alonso (quad), D Roman Torres (undisclosed)
  • Suspensions: None
Scouting report: Philadelphia Union 

Head coach Jim Curtin made just one switch in between two very different matches this week, giving Oguchi Onyewu the nod over Richie Marquez as Jack Elliott’s center back partner. Does a 3-0 drumming on the road call for any tactical changes? The 4-1-4-1 shape that handily took care of Chicago was simply torn apart by Atlanta on Wednesday.

Now, a lot of that has to do with Atlanta, which has proven to be one of the league’s top sides. But even with the strong emergence of Warren Creavalle in front of the back line, the 4-1-4-1 can still leave some open space on both ends. The last thing you want to give Clint Dempsey is space.

Offensively, the problem remains the No. 10 role, or lack thereof. With Ilsinho still out injured, Curtin will again need to rely on Fafa Picault and Chris Pontius out wide. It’s a bonus if Keegan Rosenberry and Fabinho press up the field and whip in some crosses, but any way you slice it, C.J. Sapong needs to end up with the ball. He’ll pressure the back line throughout the match and draw some contact like he always does, but it’s unlikely that he’ll get his 15th goal alone.

Due to lack of rest and such a tight schedule, it’s possible we’ll see Curtin make a like-for-like switch with guys like Roland Alberg or Ray Gaddis, but don’t expect too much to change. With the Union, it often seems less about tactics and more about circumstance. Some nights it’s all clicking and everyone is there to play and others, nothing works or a lead is inexplicably coughed up.

There simply isn’t a way to know which team will be on the field Sunday, but given that it’s nationally-televised match at home, it really needs to be a good version.

  • Injury report: OUT: D Ken Tribbett (Achilles), QUEST: M Fabian Herbers (hernia), D Josh Yaro (knee): M Maurice Edu (left ankle/left tibia surgery recovery), M Ilsinho (Achilles), D Aaron Jones (abs)
  • Suspension: None.

Player to watch: Warren Creavalle

One thing the Union will need is possession. If Seattle keeps the ball and keeps its defensive energy preserved, it’ll make for a long night for the hosts. Against the Fire, Creavalle was instrumental in terms of protecting the back line and transitioning possession of the ball. If he can keep it away from Dempsey and keep some pressure off Elliott and Onyewu, Philadelphia will be much better off.

At the same time, Union fans will hope to be more focused on Sapong and some goal-scoring chances. Too much attention on Creavalle probably isn’t a good thing.

Prediction: Philadelphia Union 1-1 Seattle Sounders

The Union are very strong and score goals at home. The Sounders are very strong and don’t concede goals. This one has draw written all over it.

5 Comments

  1. First time I’ve given my tickets away when I had no other plans. Just don’t feel it.

    • I’m going, but not looking forward to hearing the Seattle visiting supporters singing, “I don’t hear a f*ckin’ thing” at the Sons Of Ben.

  2. Is Geiger really whistling consecutive games for the Union? Also, any word on Rosenberry’s status after coming off early on Wednesday?

    • No to the first question. From PRO:
      Philadelphia Union v Seattle Sounders
      Talen Energy Stadium (1:00PM ET)
      REF: ALAN KELLY
      AR1: Danny Thornberry
      AR2: Eric Boria
      4TH: Marcos DeOliveira
      VAR: Fotis Bazakos

  3. I’m going to go and wave goodbye.
    .
    Hopefully to :Curtin, Alberg, Ilsinho, Pontius, Fabinho, Albright, Sugarman, that one 50/50 raffle guy who walks in front of me during play…

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