Match previews / Union

Preview: Philadelphia Union at Columbus Crew

Game time: Sunday, 4 p.m.

TV: abc 6.2

Philadelphia Union play their final game of the season on Sunday when they head west to face the Columbus Crew.

The Union (8-14-7) are playing their best soccer of the season, going 5-2-3 since Aug. 28. They’ve given up more than one goal in only one game during that stretch, thanks to a good run by new goalkeeper Brad Knighton and solid defensive play, keyed by Michael Orozco Fiscal’s excellent return to center back. Veterans Fred and Alejandro Moreno, both of whom had struggled through the season’s middle stretch, are playing well, and the team has been so good that exciting youngsters Roger Torres and Shea Salinas haven’t been able to fight their way back into the starting lineup.

On the other side, Columbus (13-8-8) is limping into the postseason, winless in their last seven against Major League Soccer opponents. They’ve faced an insanely difficult travel schedule, going to and from Central America for CONCACAF Champions League matches, and while they’ve advanced through group play, it’s worn them down on the field. Still, this is a very good team. Goalkeeper Will Hesmer is solid in the back, and one of the league’s best center back pairings — Chad Marshall and Andy Iro sits in front of him. Tall and lanky winger Eddie Gaven is one of the league’s most underrated players. Guillermo Barros Schelotto may have slowed down, but his creativity remains as he floats behind the Crew’s human cannonball of a striker, Steven Lenhart. Fringe U.S. international winger Robbie Rogers is almost a forgotten man in comparison.

The last time these teams played, the Crew won 2-1. The Union’s tendency to lose their width played right into the Crew’s strength, their towering center backs and defensive midfielder Brian Carroll, who collapsed on the Union and shut down the attack. This time, however, the Union are playing with a new goalkeeper and new confidence. Gaven will put Union left back Jordan Harvey to the test, but Harvey may have put his rough stretch in the past by playing very well last weekend against New York. The Union back line is playing as good as ever, and we haven’t even mentioned Sebastien Le Toux yet.

Probable starters

Philadelphia

Goalkeeper: Brad Knighton

Defenders: Jordan Harvey, Michael Orozco Fiscal, Danny Califf, Sheanon Williams

Midfielders: Justin Mapp, Fred, Stefani Miglioranzi, Sebastien Le Toux

Forwards: Danny Mwanga, Alejandro Moreno

Columbus

Goalkeeper: Will Hesmer

Defenders: Gino Padula, Andy Iro, Chad Marshall, Frankie Hejduk

Midfielders: Robbie Rogers, Brian Carroll, Adam Moffat, Eddie Gaven

Forwards: Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Steven Lenhart

Injuries and Suspensions

PHILADELPHIA UNION — PROBABLE: GK Brad Knighton (L shoulder sprain); FW Danny Mwanga (L shoulder sprain); FW Alejandro Moreno (R knee contusion)

COLUMBUS  — QUESTIONABLE: FW Steven Lenhart (illness); PROBABLE: DF Frankie Hejduk (illness); MF Danny O’Rourke (back spasms)

Prediction

Union win 1-0. Columbus is a tired team, and they just played Thursday in Trinidad. Philadelphia is playing great soccer, and guys are playing for jobs next season. Do the math.

(Photo: Nicolae Stoian)

One Comment

  1. Fred is suspended for YC cards. Jacobson or nakazawa probably start for him

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