Match previews / Union

Preview: Philadelphia Union at Chivas USA

Game time: Saturday, 10:30 p.m.

TV: Fox Soccer Channel

Philadelphia Union travels to Los Angeles to play Chivas USA in a Saturday night battle between last place teams potentially heading in different directions.

The Union (3-7-1) come in off a big win at their new stadium to remain unbeaten in three home games interspersed in a long road trip to start the year. Chivas USA (3-9-1) has lost seven straight games against Major League Soccer clubs but got a 1-0 win over the USL’s Austin Aztex in U.S. Open Cup play Tuesday.

Both teams began changing their roster during the World Cup, though the changes at Chivas are more significant so far. Their top player, fringe U.S. international Sacha Kljestan, moved to Belgian champs Anderlecht this month, setting off the resigning of former Goats midfielder Paolo Nagamura and the eventual releases Wednesday of Jose Macotelo and forward Maicon Santos. Chivas coach Martin Vazquez had crafted his team’s formation largely around giving Kljestan room to room as an attacking midfielder in what’s alternately described as a 4-4-1 or a 4-2-3-1. Salvadoran international Osael Romero has replaced him and scored his first goal against Dallas last week. Likewise, U.S. international Jonathan Bornstein returns from the World Cup, though it’s unclear whether he’ll play or not.

The Union’s on-field changes have been more significant than the trade of Shavar Thomas to Kansas City as manager Peter Nowak continues tinkering with the expansion team’s lineup to find the one that maximizes his team’s talents. It’s starting to look like he’s finally found it. The attacking trio of Sebastien Le Toux, Danny Mwanga and Alejandro Moreno is gelling, and Fred moved to center midfield to cue the Union’s most potent attack of the season in last Sunday’s 3-1 dismantling of the Seattle Sounders. Finding a spot on the field for Shea Salinas remains key, but whether it’s at right back or one of the winger spots may depend on the opposing team that week.

Probable starters


Goalkeeper: Chris Seitz

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

Midfielders: Shea Salinas, Stefani Miglioranzi, Fred, Sebastien Le Toux

Forwards: Alejandro Moreno, Danny Mwanga

Chivas USA

Goalkeeper: Zach Thornton

Defenders: Mariano Trujillo, Michael Umaña, Dario Delgado, Ante Jazic

Midfielders: Justin Braun, Osael Romero, Paulo Nagamura, Blair Gavin, Jesus Padilla

Forwards: Maykel Galindo

Injuries and suspensions

Philadelphia: OUT: MF Kyle Nakazawa (R knee sprain); QUESTIONABLE: FW Alejandro Moreno (R knee contusion); PROBABLE: DF Cristian Arrieta (R ankle contusion)

Chivas USA: QUESTIONABLE: DF Alex Zotinca (L calf strain)


Philadelphia defense vs. Chivas USA attackers

Chivas have scored the fewest goals in the Western Conference, while the Union have given up the second most goals in all of Major League Soccer despite playing the fewest games and are the only team not yet to record a clean sheet. Something has to give.

The Union’s defensive play has consistently improved, as goalkeeper Chris Seitz has upped his game and the back line has cut down on mistakes. Shea Salinas has added speed at right back, but his presence there means he’s missed in an attacking role. If Salinas plays midfield, Cristian Arrieta starts at right back. Michael Orozco returns from suspension to join Danny Califf in the center, with the steady Jordan Harvey at left back.

For Chivas, the absence of Kljestan could bring an altered formation. Justin Braun, who leads Chivas with four goals, can play forward but has largely been on the right wing in a formation with a sole striker, Maykel Galindo, who has just one goal this year in six games.

Edge: Philadelphia

Philadelphia midfield vs. Chivas USA midfield

Paulo Nagamura’s from Tigres UANL should steady a young midfield. Nagamura was the midfield engine for Chivas from 2007 through the end of last year, when he moved to Mexico on transfer before his return last week. He’ll set in beside rookie holding midfielder Blair Gavin, who has started 12 of the team’s 13 goals this season. Half of the team’s 14 goals have come from wingers Braun and Jesus Padilla, with no other Goat netting more than one. Kljestan’s departure brings a very different player into his place in Romero, a small but quick midfielder who entered the season with a good deal of hype and is just now getting the chance to play.

Peter Nowak’s midfield tinkering transformed the Union against Seattle, turning a team that has struggled to maintain possession into one that dominated it. Fred’s move to his natural center midfield spot was overdue, apparently initiated by a domino effect in the lineup caused by Orozco’s suspension. With Kyle Nakazawa injured, Fred likely stays there. Keeping Sebastien Le Toux at right wing was the other key move. He had played there some before, but in this game, he spent far more time with more comfort there than Danny Mwanga. Roger Torres or Salinas will likely start on the left side, with Stefani Miglioranzi in the holding role.

Edge: Even

Philadelphia attackers vs. Chivas USA defense

If Jonathan Bornstein returns, the question is where he plays and who sees the bench. Bornstein has appeared this season at left back, center back and even left midfield. Canadian international Ante Jazic is a solid left back, while right back Mariano Trujillo can play some midfield, so that could affect the tinkering. Center backs Dario Delgado and Michael Umaña were imported this season from Costa Rican clubs, and it’s likely that one of them gets some pine time if Bornstein plays. Goalkeeper Zach Thornton was one of the league’s best last season.

Le Toux’s comfort on the right wing for Philadelphia lets Mwanga play his natural striker position, and his finishing has been terrific. Alejandro Moreno comes in with an injury, so if he doesn’t play, look for Le Toux to move back up top with Mwanga. If all three play like they did against Seattle, they can be dangerous.

Edge: Even

Individual match-up to watch

Osael Romero vs. Stefani Miglioranzi

Romero now sits in the key creative attacker role. He’s young and talented, but such players often have trouble early on with the physical play in MLS. The veteran Miglioranzi is quite adept at that by now. If the two are quiet, it means the Union win this match-up and close down the Chivas attack.

What to expect

The string of home games doesn’t start for the Union till next week, so even after the great opener at PPL Park, it’s right back on the road for the Union, who have struggled away from home. Both teams are in flux. The question is who settles down better and whether the Union can handle an away game.


1-1 draw.

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