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Preview: Philadelphia Union vs. Colorado Rapids

Game time: Saturday, 4 p.m.

TV: 6abc/MyNetwork TV, Telefutura

Five games in 15 days. That’s the stretch of games Philadelphia Union has played since the all-star break. Two draws and two losses, with the three of the four games against top 5 clubs in Major League Soccer.

Now the Colorado Rapids come to town Saturday to bookend this exhausting stretch. Colorado (7-5-6) has had a week off before this road trip, so expect them to be rested. Philly product and center midfielder Jeff Larentowicz is the all-star of the bunch, in his first year at Colorado after leaving New England and breaking up the league’s best center midfield tandem. Fringe U.S. international Conor Casey is the other big name on a squad that doesn’t draw much attention among MLS clubs.

The Union (4-10-4) could rest some regulars, or manager Peter Nowak could plow through with his best, as the team gets eight days off after this. Goalkeeper Chris Seitz has made some great saves the last two games, and Saturday might be his best chance for the Union’s first shutout, as the Rapids are one of the league’s lowest scoring teams, with just 20 goals from 18 games. On the flip side, they play good defense, having given up just 17 goals, and the Union have given up more goals (33) than any team in MLS despite playing the fewest number of games.

Probable starters


Goalkeeper: Chris Seitz

Defenders: Jordan Harvey, Juan Diego Gonzalez, Danny Califf, Michael Orozco Fiscal

Midfielders: Fred, Eduardo Coudet, Kyle Nakazawa, Justin Mapp

Forwards: Danny Mwanga, Sebastien Le Toux


Goalkeeper: Matt Pickens

Defenders: Kosuke Kimura, Julien Baudet, Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne

Midfielders: Jamie Smith, Jeff Larentowicz, Pablo Mastroeni, Wells Thompson

Forwards: Conor Casey, Omar Cummings

Injuries and suspensions

Philadelphia: OUT: MF Shea Salinas (L fibular fracture); QUESTIONABLE: MF Stefani Miglioranzi (R groin strain); PROBABLE: FW Danny Mwanga (L groin strain); MF Jordan Harvey (L groin strain) …

Colorado: OUT: MF Ciaran O’Brien (L hip sprain); FW Ross Schunk (R ACL tear); QUESTIONABLE: MF Colin Clark (L knee sprain); PROBABLE: FW Conor Casey (head trauma); MF Jamie Smith (neck strain)


Philadelphia defense vs. Colorado attackers

The Union have clearly solidified the back line by adding Juan Diego Gonzalez at center back, but suddenly the reliable center back Danny Califf and left back Jordan Harvey have turned in some poor games over the last two. It could be fatigue, as the back line has lacked depth. Either way, both have been solid most of the season. Michael Orozco Fiscal played a terrific defensive game at right back Wednesday against Real Salt Lake, but the converted center back still hasn’t shown much pushing up the flank. Seitz has been playing well.

Colorado’s Omar Cummings has drawn praise this year up top, but he still has just five goals in 18 games. Casey has seven goals, some of which come on penalty kicks. Casey is a plodding bull with a nose for the ball who consistently hustles, but he hasn’t been in top form this season. It’s a solid pair, but they also don’t excite a whole lot on a team that scores very few goals.

Edge: Even

Philadelphia midfield vs. Colorado midfield

Larentowicz is the guy to watch for Colorado because of the key role he plays and, well, he’s from Philly, having grown up in West Chester and graduated from Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia. The red-headed, hard-nosed defensive midfielder pairs with former U.S. international Pablo Mastroeni at center midfield, and they make the team go. Wells Thompson is getting regular time on one flank after coming in from New England. Some guy named Jamie Smith is tapped to play on the other wing lately with Colin Clark injured, though whether he does or not is anyone’s guess. The wingers prompt a yawn.

Of course, you could say the same about the Union, where the out-of-position Fred continues to madden on the left wing. Justin Mapp has impressed on the other side since coming over in a trade, but both offer more dribbling than crosses. Eduardo Coudet played beautifully against RSL, settling in to a holding midfield role and sending some great through balls to Sebastien Le Toux. Kyle Nakazawa has been filling in for the injured Stefani Miglioranzi, but with him not taking free and corner kicks against RSL, he didn’t show anything to earn him another start. Andrew Jacobson or Roger Torres, who’s back from injury, could get a start at the expense of Nakazawa and Fred.

Edge: Even

Philadelphia forwards vs. Colorado defense

Colorado has a solid center back in Drew Moor, and the very fast but sometimes frustrating Marvell Wynne has moved between his traditional right back slot and the center back position this season. Center back Julien Baudet captained English League One club Crewe Alexandria before signing with Colorado and has apparently earned the nickname “the Beast” along the way. Kosuke Kimura is the first Japanese defender to play in MLS and has had the task of replacing expansion draftee Jordan Harvey, whose absence at Colorado has been felt this year. Matt Pickens is a pretty decent keeper in the back.

We’ve run out of things to say about Sebastien Le Toux at this point. He runs all game, has been seizing the opportunity for some terrific runs on goal lately, and his passing is as good as his scoring touch. Now he just needs to let someone else take corner kicks. Danny Mwanga scored against RSL after returning from injury but clearly tired at the end so may not be at full fitness. Alejandro Moreno could start for one of them after this tough stretch of games, possibly giving Le Toux a breather. Of course, as important as Le Toux is to this team, it’s not a pretty picture to imagine life without him on the field. The Union get the edge if Le Toux and Mwanga start, but absent Le Toux, everything changes.

Edge: Philadelphia

Individual match-up to watch

Jeff Larentowicz vs. Eduardo Coudet

We’re watching Larentowicz because he’s the guy we wanted Philadelphia to somehow get before this season, a local guy in his prime. We’re watching Coudet because he’ll be in the same vicinity, though it’s his passing and movement of the Union attack we’re eying more than his defense. The Union center backs’ play against Colorado’s forwards could determine more about the game’s outcome, but Larentowicz and Coudet should be fun to watch.

Oddball note

Remember last month, when Toronto FC defender and local product Dan Gargan’s fans caused all sorts of trouble at PPL Park? Yeah, well, those fans will be here for Larentowicz too. The two were high school teammates. Larentowicz said his family bought 100 tickets to Saturday’s game and added, “Our high school friends went to the Toronto versus Philly game and got themselves in a little bit of trouble because they were cheering for Dan. So I’m sure they’re going to be cheering for me.” For those who don’t know anything about Chestnut Hill Academy, where Gargan and Larentowicz went to school, it’s an all-male school for rich kids in Chestnut Hill, a northwest Philly section routinely listed as one of the nation’s top urban neighborhoods. They have a great soccer program and lots of rich kids who go to school there. Next door, there’s an all-female private school called Springside that’s just as exclusive.

Yeah, it’s like that. Be gentle. Don’t puke on or punch anybody, as much as you might want to.


The Union win 1-0. (If Le Toux doesn’t play, the Union lose 1-0.) Colorado is a good but unexciting team. The Union are probably tired but due for a win. Chris Seitz has been playing well, and Colorado doesn’t score much. I think Seitz gets his first shutout Saturday as Colorado plays boring soccer. (Of course, it’s been said I can be a tad optimistic about the Union …)

(Photo: Paul Rudderow)

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