Featured / Match previews / Union

Preview: FC Dallas at Philadelphia Union

Game time: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET

TV: Live Well Network (Comcast ch. 245 in HD, ch. 246 in SD), TeleFutura (Comcast ch. 251)

Home sweet home.

After five straight road games and five straight losses, Philadelphia Union (1-5-0) finally get another home game, and guess what? They’re undefeated so far at home! OK, so it’s only one game, but still, that counts for something. As the Union have hit this losing streak, it’s easy to forget that they’re on the kind of travel schedule that is almost unheard of in North American sports. Essentially, they’re spending nearly all of their first two months on the road. They played all but one of those road games either a man down or without their injured leading scorer, Sebastien Le Toux. Sure, this sounds like an awesome set of excuses from Union apologists, but it’s also perspective. (Besides, what more can we say about the defensive breakdowns and Chris Seitz’s error per game rate that hasn’t already been said?)

This time, they’ll get a decent challenge at home from FC Dallas (2-1-4), a franchise that just confounds sometimes. They have a beautiful stadium outside Dallas but can’t break the 10,000 mark in average attendance. They play solid soccer up until the last 10 yards, and then they can’t finish. In seven matches, they have four draws, but they have also won their last two matches, including a win Wednesday against the Houston Dynamo. But now they’ll play their third match in eight days before 30,000 Union fans who have only gotten one measly home match so far this season. Sounds like a home field advantage, but is that enough?

Probable starters

Philadelphia

Goalkeeper: Chris Seitz

Defenders: Jordan Harvey, Michael Orozco, Danny Califf, Cristian Arrieta

Midfielders: Stefani Miglioranzi, Fred, Roger Torres, Andrew Jacobson, Shea Salinas

Forwards:  Alejandro Moreno

Dallas

Goalkeeper: Kevin Hartman

Defenders: Heath Pearce, Ugo Ihemelu, George John, Zach Loyd

Midfielders:  David Ferreira, Brek Shea, Dax McCarty, Daniel Hernandez, Atiba Harris

Forwards: Jeff Cunningham

Injuries and suspensions

Philadelphia: MF Toni Stahl (left knee strain) is out. FW Sebastien Le Toux isn’t listed on the injury report, but we really have no idea whether he’ll play.

Dallas: DF Kyle Davies (right arm fracture) is questionable.

Match-ups

Philadelphia defense vs. Dallas forwards

With Dallas playing a 4-1-4-1 formation, there’s typically only one true forward on the field, and that’s Jeff Cunningham, last year’s leading scorer in Major League Soccer. But when you look at the attack for Dallas, it’s obviously far more than just that, and their midfield has set their teammates up for 107 shots on goal, the most in the league. The problem is that Dallas simply isn’t converting those opportunities, with only six goals that haven’t been on penalty kicks. None of their attacking talent matters if they can’t hit the broad side of a barn while shooting on goal.

The way the Union defense has been playing though, that may be enough. Chris Seitz continues to gift his opponents with about a goal a game that can be pinned directly on his misplays. His back line isn’t helping him much, with Cristian Arrieta the latest to make a boneheaded error that leads directly to a goal, in his case a weak back pass that was stolen and turned into a Kyle Beckermann score by Real Salt Lake. Center backs Danny Califf and Michael Orozco have looked mediocre at best, despite their national team pedigree leading some to believe they’d be the immediate strength of the team. Along with Jordan Harvey, the back line has a load of talent. It’s just a matter of them putting it all together for a full 90 minutes.

Telling stat: Jeff Cunningham is second in the league with 27 shots, but he’s only scored one goal in the run of play.

Edge: Dallas

Philadelphia midfield vs. Dallas midfield

Dax McCarty is one of the brightest lights for FC Dallas. He didn’t get called in for the World Cup training camp, but he impressed in his recent U.S. friendlies and has played well for Dallas. Likewise, David Ferreira and Atiba Harris have turned opposing goals into a pinball machine, with 35 shots between them and a place in the league’s top 10 for that category but just two goals total. U.S. international Heath Pearce has played at both midfield winger slots and both fullback positions, and he’s looked solid, much as he has recently on the international stage. The knock on Brek Shea is that he’s all athletic ability and no touch, and I’m not about to argue that.

For the Union, we could see some changes in the starting lineup. Roger Torres has struggled and might be expected to see some pine time if not for the fact that he scored in this week’s closed door friendly against Ecuador’s national team. If Sebastien Le Toux returns from injury, Torres could be the casualty. On the flip side, winger Shea Salinas looks like he’s shot out of a cannon every time he sees the field, and if he’s not in the starting lineup somewhere – and it could be anywhere from fullback to forward – you have to ask why. Stefani Miglioranzi returns from a one-game suspension and has been solid when he’s not drawing red cards for silly tackles, and Fred and Andrew Jacobson will probably start too. Look for Kyle Nakazawa to see more time after impressing on free kicks so far.

Telling stat: Fred has yet to take a shot this season for the Union.

Edge: Dallas

Philadelphia forwards vs.  Dallas defense

Alejandro Moreno has done his job well, but he just hasn’t scored. When Sebastien Le Toux is out there with him, that works fine, because Moreno sets him up nicely for opportunities on goal. When Le Toux’s not, Moreno’s dirty work isn’t enough if Le Toux’s replacements can’t finish. So the key is Le Toux. Is he healthy and able to play? He’s not on the injury report, and he showed up for warmups in the Ecuador match.

Dallas recently made a switch at goalkeeper, replacing Dario Sala with Kevin Hartman, who holds the league records for most wins (148) and shutouts (86). Both are good goalkeepers, but Hartman’s success is unmatched in the league. It’s amazing more teams (I’m looking at you, Philadelphia Union) didn’t make a play for him when Kansas City let him go. The back line is decent but young, with rookie Zach Loyd and second-year man George John likely to start.

Telling stat: No team has taken fewer shots than the Union’s 52, but the Union are third in the league with 48 percent of those shots going on goal.

Edge: Even

Individual match-up to watch

Sebastien Le Toux vs. Kevin Hartman

Yep, the key to this game could be Le Toux and whether he plays. If he does, Hartman will see shots on goal. If he doesn’t, Hartman might be able to bring out a lawn chair. Nobody else on the Union has regularly threatened to score.

What to expect

Dallas is the better team, except for the simple fact that they can’t finish. Considering that scoring goals is the object of soccer, that’s a minor problem for them. Look for Dallas to control the attack and take about 15 shots in the game. The Union back five need to go through the game without making a disastrous error that leads to a goal. With that many shots coming their way, can we be optimistic that this is the game when they do it?

Prediction

Dallas wins 2-1. If Le Toux plays, flip that score for a Union win. A great home field advantage and goal scorer can do that.

2 Comments

  1. Jorge Maradona says:

    I always felt that if the union play with a 4-3-3 formation and letting Moreno, Le Toux, and Mwanga in the Forward position this would be a great attacking trio hard to defend.

    PS: Take a look a the loud crowd of the philadelphia union fans:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

%d bloggers like this: