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Preview: Philadelphia Union at Vancouver Whitecaps

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Game time: Saturday, 10 p.m.

TV: The Comcast Network

On Saturday, Philadelphia Union get to face an old teammate and the strangest player in Major League Soccer.

The Union (6-3-4) head to Vancouver to face the expansion Whitecaps (1-6-8), who thus far have been the league’s worst team. They’ve already fired their coach and shuffled their lineup, but it’s a lineup that had been injury-riddled and is still missing at least one of its best players, attacker Atiba Harris.

Now, those players are coming back and beginning to find their way onto the field again. Midfielder Terry Dunfield should be available after returning from international duty for Canada at the Gold Cup, and striker Eric Hassli may finally be avoiding red cards enough (he has three on the year) to score some pretty goals. (If you haven’t seen his claim for goal of the year, check this out.) Former Union winger Shea Salinas is also healthy after a terrific preseason was cut short by injury, and he’ll start on the right midfield flank. In the back, U.S. international center back Jay DeMerit is working his way into form as well after some injury troubles. Meanwhile, midfielder Davide Chiumento has been moved from a wide position to a more central spot, sitting just behind Hassli as a withdrawn striker or attacking midfielder, much as he clamored for throughout the early part of the season. He and Hassli may prove a difficult pair to contend with as they spend more time paired up front.

For the Union, the attack has come alive in recent weeks as a more fluid midfield has combined with a strike duo with a clear chemistry advantage over what started the season. Brian Carroll has been the constant for the midfield, covering enough ground to provide defensive cover for the other three midfield roles to be more attack-minded. Kyle Nakazawa has finally gotten the opportunity to play centrally on a regular basis, and he’s fared well on both ends. Last week, he was asked to shadow Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckermann the whole game and did a good job for it. Three weeks ago, he netted his first goal with the Union. On the flanks, Keon Daniel, Justin Mapp, and the Farfan twins have interchanged beautifully, putting opponents on their heals more often than not.

Up front, Sebastien Le Toux remains without a goal in the run of play, but he is looking dangerous again and hit the woodwork last week. Danny Mwanga has been terrific, and Jack McInerney is getting time spelling them. On the back line, the back five remain top-shelf, though Faryd Mondragon has begun to show limitations as a shot-stopper and Carlos Valdes has finally begun to look human.

Probable starters

Philadelphia

Goalkeeper: Faryd Mondragon

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

Midfielders: Keon Daniel, Kyle Nakazawa, Brian Carroll, Michael Farfan

Forwards: Danny Mwanga, Sebastien Le Toux

Vancouver

Goalkeeper: Joe Cannon

Defenders: Alain Rochat, Jay DeMerit, Mouloud Akloul, Jonathan Leathers

Midfielders: Camilo, Gershon Koffie, Davide Chiumento, Terry Dunfield, Shea Salinas

Forwards: Eric Hassli

Injuries and suspensions

Philadelphia – OUT: MF Amobi Okugo (L ankle sprain); DOUBTFUL: MF Gabriel Farfan (R quad strain). Carlos Ruiz is on international duty.

Vancouver – OUT: GK Jay Nolly (L foot strain); MF Philippe Davies (L ankle sprain); FW Atiba Harris (R knee surgery); MF John Thorrington (R calf strain); QUESTIONABLE: GK Brian Sylvestre (R adductor strain).

Prediction

Union win 2-1. Vancouver’s attack is much improved, and don’t underestimate how difficult it is to cross three time zones and win a soccer match played at what, for east coast players, will still feel like 10 p.m. at night. But the Union are simply the better team. Vancouver is meshing as a team.

2 Comments

  1. hopefully, we just won’t move Marfan back to fullback again

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