Match previews / Union

Preview: Union v Columbus

What: Union vs. Crew

Where: PPL Park

When: Saturday, 7:30pm ET

TV: The Comcast Network

Radio: None

Eight league games without a win. While positivity continues to pour out of the Union locker room, the team—and the fans—need a win soon or hope will turn into anxious fatalism. Columbus comes to town knowing that anything less than three points could see them drop within striking distance of the Union and Dynamo, a dangerous place to be as the season winds down.

Recent history

The Crew haven’t tasted victory since dispatching the Union on August 20th. A fairly harsh penalty call on Sheanon Williams separated the teams in Columbus, with the Union showing themselves every bit the Eastern Conference leaders’ equal.

Since their last match, both teams have struggled mightily on defense. The Union have given up six and scored five in three games. Columbus has given up ten (ten!) and scored eight in their last three. Both sides are coming off home ties that they probably should have won. The Union put together their best match in a while in a draw with Portland while Columbus took a strange ride on the MLS refereeing train in a 2-2 tie with Houston.

Missing in midfield

These teams match up well, which isn’t exactly fantastic news for fans. The last match was a war of attrition and Saturday’s game will be much the same. With Emmanuel Ekpo suspended, the Crew will be without their midfield enforcer. Ekpo has been a rock for the Crew this season and Philly needs to exploit his absence by going right at whoever fills in for, while Kevin Burns is no slouch, but he can’t replace Ekpo’s workrate. The Crew need solid play from their central midfielders because their attack is nothing special. They commit players forward and trust that they will get cover. It’s not easy to accumulate 41 fouls conceded in 24 starts, but Ekpo has done it this season. 42 fouls suffered attests to the amount of time he spends on the ball and how much he will be missed.

The 47 fouls conceded by center back Julius James is also something to keep an eye on. Since Carlos Ruiz took his talents south of South Beach, the Union haven’t spent much time directly challenging central defenders. Mwanga, Adu, and Torres should look to drive at James if the chance arises.

Marshall maybe

James’ defensive partner will be a last minute decision. Starter and team leader Chad Marshall left Wednesday’s game against Houston with a hip injury, but he passed an MRI with flying colors and claims there is a chance he will feature this weekend. Marshall’s absence would be huge for the Union. They have had trouble dealing with big guys on set pieces all year and Marshall knows exactly what to do if he gets his head on a corner kick.

But a target man on free kicks isn’t the only thing Columbus has that the Union lack. In Robbie Rogers and Dilly Duka, the Crew have a dynamic duo down the flanks who can spin crosses into the box, take on defenders, and hold possession in the final third. Controlling the wide players will be key to Philly’s success this weekend. Sheanon Williams will have to put in a top notch full ninety on the in-form Rogers and Gabe Farfan should get the call on the left.

Consistent starters?

With Keon Daniel out, the Union lineup looks the most settled it has in some time. Those who enjoy watching quality defenders look like they just finished a Jim Beam power hour are rooting for Michael Farfan to get a start in midfield alongside RoTo and Adu. This would push Le Toux up top, however, and it’s unlikely Peter Nowak will sacrifice Veljko Paunovic’s size against Columbus.

Truthfully, at this point in the season each team knows each other pretty well; there are few surprises on the pitch. But what the Crew won’t be ready for is the atmosphere around the stadium. Portland plays in front of their own rowdy crowd, but Columbus cannot prepare themselves for the passion at PPL Park.

Make. Some. Noise.

The Crew, who play their home games in the Young Adult section of the Greater Columbus Public Library, need to hear that famous Philly sound as they warm up before the game, and again as they walk out of the tunnel. Get there early, bring your husband, bring your wife, bring your kids, bring your drum, your noise and your voice. Wave your scarf, wear your pride, bring your friends along for the ride. If you like to chant, chant. If you like to sing, sing.

But from the time that midwest team, with it’s league worst 11,278 attendance*, deplanes and rides their ponies to Chester, they need to feel something special in the air: passion, spirit, and, most importantly, faith. The passion of fans who waited years to get a team while Ohio took theirs for granted. The spirit of a city that drives an hour to pack out a stadium and gets a round of applause from its team after every game. And the faith of every stubborn supporter who can’t remember the last time their coach put out a lineup they liked but also can’t point to a single name in that lineup that he or she doesn’t root for with every fiber in their being once the whistle blows.

Columbus may be above the Union in the standings, but who cares where you finish if nobody in your town notices. Let’s make sure the Crew notice all of us on Saturday. And let’s get a win.

Starting Lineups

Philadelphia (4-something-2)

MacDaddy – Sheanomenon – El Kaiser – Bearfight – Garfan; Linguine – Marfan – RoTo – Adu – MwanGenius – Seba: Begins

Columbus (4-4-2)

Hesmer – Francis – James – Marshall – Miranda – Burns – O’Rourke – Rogers – Duka – Heinemann – Mendoza

Injuries

Philadelphia: OUT: Mondragon (finger) – Houapeu (ankle) DOUBTFUL: Mapp (quad) PROBABLE: Paunovic (calf) – Le Toux (hip pointer)

Columbus: OUT: Tchani (knee) – Gaven (leg contusion) – Renteria (concussion) DOUBTFUL: Anor (ankle) QUESTIONABLE: Gruenebaum (thumb) – Riggs (concussion)

Suspensions

Philadelphia: None

Columbus: Ekpo (overzealous ref)

Next Yellow Suspension

Philadelphia: Califf

Columbus: Burns, Miranda

Where in the world is

Philadelphia: Keon Daniel

Interpol: Carmen Sandiego

Hilarious Google returns for “What is exciting about Columbus Ohio”

  • #3: “Edited Hamlet Exciting, Irreverent”
  • #5: “Not exciting weather…”
  • #7: “Exciting motorcycle riding routes!” (roads?)

Miscellany

  • Columbus has scored 9 penalty kicks this season
  • Neither team has lost this season when leading at halftime. The Crew have only led three times at the half all year.
  • Joe Tait will wear #2 on the Union, Morgan Langley will wear #26.
  • Jeff Cunningham still plays soccer
  • The Crew won this fixture 2-1 at PPL Park last year
  • Best pre-match quote: Danny O’Rourke said, “They’re one of those teams that’s breathing down our throat.” Ew.
  • Best line from the pre-match notes: “This past Saturday, Philadelphia Union controlled their game against Portland Timers but were unable to capitalize on numerous scoring opportunities, ultimately earning a 0-0 draw at PPL Park.” Those Timers really “tick” me off. I wish I could “clock” one of them. Tying the Timers is a real cause for “alarm.” Ok, I’ll stop.
  • This is the first time Brian Carroll will face the Crew since being traded to Philly last summer.
  • Columbus is in first place in the East despite a negative goal differential. Guh.

Prediction

Union 3–2 Crew

It is time to get this party started right now.

*I bet that number is cumulative over the season.

3 Comments

  1. Good call Adam. We need to bring the noise in the stands for sure in this game. Hopefully, the Union will take advantage of the early chances they’ve been getting as of late and we’ll get to do some loud DOOPing.

  2. I miss Keon Daniel. His settling presence would be perfect for this game.

  3. Pingback: The Philly Soccer Page » A false 9 for #11, and more news

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