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Preview: Philadelphia Union at Portland Timbers

Photo: Paul Rudderow

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

TV: Fox Soccer Channel

Philadelphia Union will try to be the first team to beat the Portland Timbers at home when they play tonight in Portland.

The second place Union (4-1-1) could be without two starting defenders tonight. Left back Jordan Harvey is suspended for one game after receiving a very questionable red card in Saturday’s win over San Jose. Center back Danny Califf has been fighting an illness and may not play. Fortunately, the defensive depth that had seemed such a question mark coming into the season now appears to be a strength. Center back Juan Diego Gonzalez showed he’s a capable starter last season, while Michael Farfan played a terrific half at left back against San Jose after Harvey was sent off. With Farfan’s twin brother, Gabriel, possibly returning from injury, you could see either one getting the start at left back (though Michael is more likely).

Likewise, holding midfielder Brian Carroll could return to play after missing time due to injury, but whether he can get back into the lineup depends on whether manager Peter Nowak returns to a lineup of two midfielders after giving Roger Torres a start in the center last week. Amobi Okugo has played well enough at center midfield to have secured one spot. Expect Carroll to be in the lineup if he’s healthy, along with Keon Daniel on one flank.

The last question in the Union’s starting eleven is whether Danny Mwanga gets another start after playing well last week. The Union have at times deployed what looks like a 4-3-3, and other times it morphs to a four-midfielder set, with the midfielders deployed in various arrangements and Sebastien Le Toux often being the flex man. Mwanga has often been the odd man out, in favor of Carlos Ruiz, but he has linked up much more fluidly with his teammates than the Union’s high-profile signing.

For Portland (3-3-1), Jeld-Wen Field has been a fortress, with an atmosphere that rivals PPL Park as one of the best in the league. The Timbers are 3-0 there, whereas they haven’t won a game yet on the road. Kenny Cooper and Jorge Perlaza have proven a decent pair up top, and the midfield is so packed with depth that former U.S. youth international Sal Zizzo hasn’t yet cracked the starting lineup. They’re weak at center back but strong at fullback, with Rodney Wallace playing extraordinarily well as an attacking left back. They’ve also started three different goalies this season. After starting two straight games — a win over Real Salt Lake and Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup match — Troy Perkins is likely to get the nod. Newly signed attacking midfielder Diego Chara is still settling in and could be a key against the Union.

Probable starters

Philadelphia

Goalkeeper: Faryd Mondragon

Defenders: Michael Farfan, Juan Diego Gonzalez, Carlos Valdes, Sheanon Williams

Midfielders: Keon Daniel, Amobi Okugo, Brian Carroll, Sebastien Le Toux

Forwards: Carlos Ruiz, Danny Mwanga

Portland

Goalkeeper: Troy Perkins

Defenders: Rodney Wallace, Eric Brunner, Mamadou Danso, Jeremy Hall

Midfielders: Darlington Nagbe, Diego Chara, Jack Jewsbury, Kalif Alhassan

Forwards: Kenny Cooper, Jorge Perlaza

Injuries and suspensions

Philadelphia: OUT: GK Thorne Holder (concussion); PROBABLE: MF Gabriel Farfan (R toe dislocation); MF Stefani Miglioranzi (R groin strain); DF Danny Califf (illness); MF Keon Daniel (R foot contusion). DF Jordan Harvey is suspended.

Portland: OUT: FW Bright Dike (R Achilles rupture); FW Eddie Johnson (R Achilles tendinitis); FW Brian Umony (R knee MCL sprain); PROBABLE: GK Adin Brown (hamstring strain); DF David Horst (R ankle sprain); GK Jake Gleeson (L elbow sprain); MF Peter Lowry (R knee MCL strain).

Stats of the Day

The Union have been called offsides 13 times in six games. The Timbers have been offsides 31 times in 7 games — 13 by Cooper and 12 by Perlaza.

The Union have taken 45 shots in six games. The Timbers have taken 79 in seven.

This says a lot about the difference in mentalities this season (as well as the Timbers’ apparent inability to time their runs well). The Timbers attack. The Union seldom do.

Prediction

1-1 draw. Picking the Union to score or give up more than one goal is foolish, considering it hasn’t happened yet this season. In fact, only once has more than one goal total been scored in one of their games this season, so predicting two goals is even a bit much. (Maybe if Jordan Harvey hadn’t gotten sent off, the attacking lineup deployed last week would’ve netted more than once.) Expect the Union to play more to prevent goals than to score them.

Portland, on the other hand, has no such issues. They couldn’t really be bothered too much with things such as defense when putting this team together.

So two goals? Yeah, it could happen. (And yes, it’s pretty sad that a two-goal game seems high scoring.) But Portland has been very good at home. This one looks even.

2 Comments

  1. I am so tired of hearing crappy national journalists talk about Mwanga’s “sophomore slump”.

    Danny, score a damn hat trick and shut everyone up, please.

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