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Preview: Philadelphia Union at New England Revolution

Photo: Philadelphia Union

Game time: Sunday, 7:00pm

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Another week, another winnable road game for the Union. But the questions linger.

Can they finish?

The Revolution enter Sunday’s match on an eight game winless streak and the suspension of captain and midfield general Shalrie Joseph will do little to help their cause. Combine that with the 4–1 Wednesday night drubbing they received at the hands of Manchester United and the Revolution seem like a team ripe for the picking.

Carlos Valdes’ return to the lineup following a week off due to illness should see the Union defense continue in a growing tradition of stout defensive performances this season. Following a clean sheet in San Jose (albeit one without much work to do), there is no reason to believe that Nowak will not keep faith with Gabriel Farfan, allowing him to cement himself in the spot vacated by Jordan Harvey’s departure. Like San Jose, the Revs will attack with only one striker and with only three goals to his name and an inability to assert himself as a premier attacker in MLS, Danish forward Rajko Lekic will not strike fear into the Union backline.

While New England has only netted 16 times in 18 matches, ten of their strikes have come by way of the set piece. This will be of special concern for a Union defense who have found defending such chances difficult all season. Of course, without Joseph’s imposing presence and team-leading five goals, the burden will be lessened on the Union. However, on the occasion of any aerial challenge, the Union will do well to keep tabs on Stephen McCarthy, Joseph’s 6′-4″ replacement.

On the attacking end of the pitch, the Revolution will be missing a second key piece in containing the Union forwards. Centerback Ryan Cochrane has been one of coach Steve Nicol’s most consistent performers, but having earned a red card against Real Salt Lake on July 4th, he will miss Sunday’s showdown. Strangely, all signs out of the Union camp point to Carlos Ruiz being left out of the team for a second straight week.  Against San Jose, the reason given was that Ruiz was being “rested”.  No word yet on why the Guatemalan attacker looks set to miss out again, though his lack of inclusion has done little to quell the transfer rumors surrounding the player.

Against San Jose, Danny Mwanga looked threatening, forcing the best out of Jon Busch on multiple occasions, but threatening is no longer adequate. With Le Toux’s continued inability to make ball meet twine, the Union will hope that Mwanga can put the team on his back. If neither player can find the back of the net, look for Peter Nowak to lose patience early, with an extended 30-45 minute run out for Jack McInerney or Carlos Ruiz (should he make the bench).

The midfield remains a major question mark for the Union as Justin Mapp and Kyle Nakazawa continue to struggle in their efforts to spark the offense into life. Mapp had another frustrating match against San Jose, showing little impetus to get forward with pace and holding the ball for far too long. Whether by design or habit, Nakazawa allowed himself to drop too deep against San Jose, on many occasions finding himself next to, rather than in front of, Brian Carroll. Both Mapp and Nakazawa must press higher and play with far fewer touches on the ball if they are to provide the forwards with the quality of service required to break down any defense in this league.

Key Matchups

Brian Carroll vs. Benny Feilhaber

With no Shalrie Joseph in the mix, Brian Carroll can focus his efforts on the crafty, Brazilian-born Feilhaber. New England will flood the middle of the park with two other central midfielders, Pat Phelan and Stephen McCarthy, but neither can assert himself on the game like Feilhaber (or Joseph). Phelan is a converted centerback and lacks the creativity, while McCarthy has shown promise but as a rookie is still far from the finished product. Phelan and McCarthy will bang bodies, but anything creative for the Revs will come from Feilhaber and Brian Carroll’s ability to both track and negate his influence will be of critical importance to the Union’s chances.

Danny Mwanga – Sebastien Le Toux vs. Franco Coria – A.J. Soares

Franco Coria is in his first season in MLS and the 23 year old has not been a first choice center back all season. His partner AJ Soares is also a rookie who was drafted to play as an outside fullback. In a league of strong centerback play, the Revolution are more than a step behind the pack. Outside backs Kevin Allston and Darrius Barnes are both quick and skilled, thus, for one of the first times this season, the Union’s route 1 attack may be just what the doctor ordered for the sputtering offense. Look for Mwanga and Le Toux to attack their markers, both running at them with ball at feet and testing them with runs in behind. If they show desire and aggression against this pair of inexperienced players, the goals will come.

Probable starters

Philadelphia: 4-4-2

Goalkeeper: Faryd Mondragon

Defenders: Gabriel Farfan, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Sheanon Williams

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

Forwards: Sebastien Le Toux, Danny Mwanga

New England: 4-5-1
Goalkeeper: Matt Reis

Defenders: Kevin Alston, Franco Coria, A.J. Soares, Darrius Barnes

Midfielders: Sainey Nyassi, Stephen McCarthy, Benny Feilhaber, Pat Phelan, Chris Tierney

Forwards: Rejko Lekic

Injuries and suspensions

Philadelphia – OUT: FW Levi Houapeu (R ankle strain); DOUBTFUL: MF Stefani Miglioranzi (sinus fracture); FW Veljko Paunovic (L hip strain); PROBABLE: DF Danny Califf (intercostal strain)

New England – OUT: FW Kheli Dube (whiplash); QUESTIONABLE: DF Ryan Cochrane (L foot pain); PROBABLE: DF Kevin Alston (L hamstring tightness); MF Ousmane Dabo (R quadriceps strain); MF Andrew Sousa (L wrist surgery) SUSPENDED: Shalrie Joseph (yellow card accumulation); Ryan Cochrane (red card ejection)

Prediction

Union 2–0 Revolution.  The Revs are bad. This is not a young team building towards future success, this is a team whose 2011 season is circling the drain. With one of their only two top players suspended, things are even worse for the men from New England. This may result in a renewed passion for the Revs as they fight “with their backs against the wall”, but they simply do not have the quality to overcome a far superior Union side. Anything less than a convincing three points should be considered a disappointment.

3 Comments

  1. MikeRSoccer says:

    I thought the game was Sunday?

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