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Preview: Philadelphia Union at Colorado Rapids

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

Game time: Saturday, 9 p..m.

TV: The Comcast Network

So, how do you follow up a six-goal explosion? You go on the road to play the league champs in their house, a year after they handed you a beating there last year.

So that’s what Philadelphia Union (6-3-2) will do when they play the Colorado Rapids (4-3-6) this Saturday night.

The Union are aiming to show that last week’s 6-2 pasting of Toronto was no fluke against a bad team, and luckily (or unluckily) for them, they get to do it right away against a good team, albeit one missing some good players. Colorado has three regulars, including striker Omar Cummings, on international duty; a fourth regular, Brian Mullan, suspended; and a fifth, Jamie Smith, injured. The club has drawn in five straight matches, and they’re looking to break that streak with a win.

On the flip side, the Union will be missing some of their own. Carlos Ruiz is on international duty, but it’s unlikely many Union fans will mourn his absence, considering his contention for this year’s Ewing Theory honors (despite being a first-year player) and how alive Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga came in Ruiz’s absence (combining for two goals and two assists against Toronto). If the Union attack continues to flourish in Ruiz’s absence, he may return from the Gold Cup to find himself a late game sub and little more.

More significant may be injuries to the Marfan twins, Michael and Gabriel, who are listed as doubtful and questionable, respectively, with muscle sprains. Each has played a huge factor in the Union’s offensive revival, offering an attacking presence in midfield where once had been a holding mid. Keon Daniel can ably fill the gap in their absence, however, so if he gets the start, little may be lost. Behind them, a terrific back line can legitimately claim to have three all-stars among them, and a lapse here and there against Toronto doesn’t detract from that at all. One question, however, is whether goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon can stay healthy behind them.

The Rapids counter with an good back line of their own, anchored by center back Drew Moore and flanked by two good, quick fullbacks in Anthony Wallace and Kosuke Kimura. Marvell Wynne has been a revelation since moving to center back last year, and veteran Tyrone Marshall has deputized admirably in his absence. In front of them sits the league’s toughest pair of center midfielders, Pablo Mastroeni and Philly product Jeff Larentowicz. With Cummings out, the Rapids have gone with a five-man midfield, and it’s been quite the shuffling act for Colorado coach Gary Smith.

Probable starters

Philadelphia

Goalkeeper: Faryd Mondragon

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

Midfielders: Justin Mapp, Kyle Nakazawa, Brian Carroll, Keon Daniel

Forwards: Danny Mwanga, Sebastien Le Toux

Colorado

Goalkeeper: Matt Pickens

Defenders: Anthony Wallace, Drew Moore, Tyrone Marshall, Kosuke Kimura

Midfielders: Wells Thompson, Ross LaBeaux, Pablo Mastroeni, Jeff Larentowicz, Andre Akpan

Forwards: Conor Casey

Injuries and suspensions

Philadelphia – OUT: Thorne Holder (Concussion); Amobi Okugo (L anklesprain); DOUBTFUL: Michael Farfan (R groin strain); QUESTIONABLE: Gabriel Farfan (L hamstring strain); Stefani Miglioranzi (R groin strain); ZachPfeffer (appendectomy); Carlos Ruiz (R groin strain). Carlos Ruiz is on international duty.

Colorado – OUT: Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear); Marvell Wynne (R hamstringstrain); Joseph Nane (R shoulder strain); QUESTIONABLE: Jamie Smith (L calf strain); Caleb Folan (R groin strain); Omar Cummings (R ankles prain); PROBABLE: Matt Pickens (R groin strain); Quincy Amarikwa (L ankle sprain). Brian Mullan is suspended. Omar Cummings, Tyrone Marshall and Sanna Nyassi are on international duty.

Prediction

The Union win 2-1. Colorado is missing too many key players to take true advantage of the home field advantage. Meanwhile, the Union attack may be reborn with manager Peter Nowak having done exactly what some have been seeking for some time: the return of the strike team that flourished so much last year, combined with a legitimate attacking presence in center midfield. Toronto was a nice breakout against a bad team, but continuing the attack against Colorado would be a serious statement on what the Union are about.

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