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Preview: Philadelphia Union vs. Seattle Sounders

Game time: Saturday, 4 p.m.

TV: The Comcast Network

Philadelphia Union will look to tighten its hold on first place Saturday when they host the Seattle Sounders at PPL Park.

The Union (3-1-0) have won three of their first four regular season games, defeating the New York Red Bulls 1-0 last week. They’ve done it with defense, giving up just one goal and recording three shutouts, one more than they secured all last season. Center backs Danny Califf and Carlos Valdez have been in top form, while fullbacks Jordan Harvey and Sheanon Williams have collapsed the flanks defensively. Faryd Mondragon seems to have steadied the back line mentally, even if he’s barely been tested so far this season. Many have credited new defensive midfielder Brian Carroll for helping solidify the defense, but he’s injured and doubtful for Saturday’s game.

But the Union have also scored just three goals, the second smallest tally in the Eastern Conference. Manager Peter Nowak appears to have enacted a philosophical change, moving away from the fun-to-watch but not always effective possession-based game played last year toward one that thinks defense first. Forward Sebastien Le Toux has struggled to adjust to new forward Carlos Ruiz and appears to still be slowed by an early spring injury, and there hasn’t been regular effective linking from the midfield. Defensive midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi has also struggled and seems to be lacking confidence, prompting calls for him to be replaced by a more attacking midfielder like Kyle Nakazawa or Roger Torres.The bright spots may be that Justin Mapp has returned from injury to bring some life to one wing, while Trinidadian international Keon Daniel has broken into the starting lineup to bring some width and smoothness to the other.

As for Seattle, the Sounders (1-2-2) picked up their first win last Saturday when new acquisition O’Brian White scored one goal and assisted on another in a 2-1 defeat of Chicago. White has looked increasingly good since coming over in a trade from Toronto, and he needs to, because Seattle forward Fredy Montero could miss another game recovering from wrist surgery. Newcomer Mauro Rosales has made the playmaker role his own since signing earlier this year, while left winger Steve Zakuani is one of the fastest players in MLS. Along with Erik Friberg, Osvaldo Alonso, and Brad Evans, this team is stocked with able midfielders. A decent back line anchored by Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Philadelphia-area product Jeff Parke, and former U.S. international Kasey Keller is between the sticks for his last year as a professional. Overall, the team has struggled this season, raising some question of coach Sigi Schmid’s status, but he got a vote of confidence last week from management and followed it up with a win.

Probable starters


Goalkeeper: Faryd Mondragon

Defenders: Jordan Harvey, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Sheanon Williams

Midfielders: Keon Daniel, Stefani Miglioranzi, Amobi Okugo, Justin Mapp

Forwards: Sebastien Le Toux, Carlos Ruiz

New York

Goalkeeper: Kasey Keller

Defenders: James Riley, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Jeff Parke, Leo Gonzalez

Midfielders: Steve Zakuani, Mauro Rosales, Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Erik Friberg

Forwards: O’Brian White

Injuries and suspensions

Philadelphia: OUT: MF Gabriel Farfan (R toe dislocation); DOUBTFUL: MF Brian Carroll (R hamstring strain); PROBABLE: FW Carlos Ruiz (L hamstring strain)

Seattle: QUESTIONABLE: FW Fredy Montero (R wrist fracture)

Local connection

Seattle starting center back Jeff Parke grew up in the area and played for FC Delco and Drexel University before turning pro.


This one has 0-0 written all over it, unless the Union insert some creativity into center midfield and/or change the playing style. All three Union regular season goals have come from the opposition’s defensive breakdowns, with at least one being a straight out gift (last week against New York). Can the Union go all season with their offense relying solely on lucky breaks? And should they continue to keep Danny Mwanga stuck to the bench after his great rookie campaign in favor of Ruiz, who sometimes looks like he parks a bar stool at the opposition’s 18 to wait for passes in the box? Until something changes in the playing style, don’t bank on goals from the Union, but don’t bank on them giving up any either. It might not be pretty, but it may be a result.

UPDATE: Fredy Montero has traveled with the Sounders to Philadelphia and could suit up.


  1. Let’s officially begin the campaign to not start Migs or Ruiz, at least for a while. Let them both get back in physical and/or mental shape and act as subs so the Daniels, Torreses,Nakazawas, and MWANGAS of the world can shine. What have we got to lose? Besides games I mean.

  2. I actually think the opposite (I know, no surprise there), I feel like this game may turn out to be a shoot out with lots of goals scored (4+)…Seattle is coming off an impressive TEAM effort with four or five starter making the MLS team of the week for week 4. They may just now be hitting there stride which may be bad for the UNION.

    • Definitely true. I was thinking the same thing, but the Union’s defensive form has been good enough that I figured it would outweigh that. We’ll see though. It wouldn’t surprise me if White keeps up the hot form. His goal last week was ridiculously good.

  3. 1-0 Union victory again. Le Toux finally get’s on the scoresheet. I’m on board with benching Ruiz and Migs, although Migs should only come out for Torres, not Nakazawa. Just because Kyle has more upside than Migs (due to age) doesn’t make him better, and with Caroll out this isn’t the time to give Nak another shot.

    • Le Toux really does need to do something. He really isnt the player he was last year, could be tactics, could be ruiz, could be his ankle but not nearly the same player he was…maybe a goal could provide the spark he needs.

    • also, I’m now nervous that the referee is Andrew Chapin, the guy who tossed Valdes and Nowak in the US Open Cup qualifier against DC last week. He also tossed Valdes in the pre-season game against Orlando.

      If he holds a grudge, as Nowak half-implied while grumpy, and he ejects one of our players (Valdes perhaps?) I could easily see us giving up more goals than we can score

  4. In what world do you draft a player #1, watch him win matches, live up to a lot of his early potential, become a fan favorite and develop a cohesive partnership with the league MVP, only to turn around and demote him in favor or a far inferior player?

    Welcome to Planet Nowak!!!!!

    • not that I disagree with you in principle, but in Nowak’s defense, so far this season, the fewer minutes Mwanga is on the pitch, the more we have praised him: HOU: 32 min, provided offensive spark. VAN: 85 min, no contribution. LA: 45 min, didn’t do much. NY: 32 min, game-winning assist

      • True. But when he was on the pitch from the opening whistle he was next to Ruiz in a three forward set and was forced out wide, out of position. He worked hard (though unspectacularly) in those games, but with Ruiz’s pathetic work rate and lead footed touches, there was never going to be any offense.

        Mwanga belongs in the middle of the pitch, with Le Toux. And Ruiz deserves to be riding the pine, feigning splinter injuries.

  5. Wonder how much of an effect the weather will have on this one…cya all there!!!! Cmon the U!!!!

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