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Match Preview: Union at Chivas USA

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

What: Union at Chivas USA

Where: ..Chivas? USA?

When: 8pm

TV: TSN – But be careful, it will probably be preempted by the Phillies game

Radio: Vocal chords still ready

“You never know what’s going to happen, but I think that it’s a bit late for us,” Chivas forward Juan Pablo Ángel said. “The only thing that we can do is control what we do on the field.”

If you thought the Union were treating the rest of the season like it’s win-or-go-home, Chivas will show you what it really looks like. Anything short of winning out against Philly, LA and Seattle (seriously!) and the Goats are done.

Since last they met

Chivas are 4-5-6 since last these teams met. Over the past month and a half, however, Chivas has been pretty awful, particularly on the defensive end. Following a 3-2 win over New England to open August, the Goats went on a seven game winless streak before waxing Toronto last weekend. They gave up 12 goals in those eight games.

Add to that poor defensive record the fact that Chivas are the only team in MLS with a losing record at home, and you expect the Union to solidify their playoff position on Sunday.

Then again, remember June 25? Philly fought for the full ninety to get three points from Chivas at home and Nick LaBrocca, the Goats playmaker, ran the game for the first 45. Want to hear something else scary about June 25? It was the last time Danny Mwanga netted for the U.

Union have been through a lot

The last Chivas game put a definitive end to the Union defense’s dream run. It was the first time another team had scored two goals at PPL Park all year, but three of the next four opponents who came to town would repeat the feat. Over the last three matches, the Union have rediscovered their defensive toughness by switching to a flexible 4-2-3-1 setup. Amobi Okugo and Michael Farfan have proven ideal complements to the tiring Brian Carroll. When Carroll sits centrally, it makes the Union virtually impenetrable. The mobility of the younger holding players keeps the opposition from building lengthy attacks when Carroll is deep, and the Union finally have holding midfielders capable of smartly starting the counterattack.

Speaking of Okugo, why was he subbed off at halftime for Justin Mapp? Not only did the Union cede the midfield dominance they’d exhibited in the first half, but Michael Farfan had to leave the left flank. Perry Kitchen’s sigh of relief when he saw Marfan lining up on the opposite side of the field? Clearly audible from Washington DC itself.

Who is on the pitch

Okugo should return to the middle against Chivas. His early balls out to Sheanon were the attack-starters the team needed, and it put the Union on the front foot for the first time in a while. Chivas needs to get on top early if they hope to win, and they aren’t afraid to push people forward. With Okugo and Michael Farfan both keeping half an eye on LaBrocca, Gabe Farfan and Sheanon Williams must have strong nights. Unlike KC, Chivas has the strikers to finish crosses if they get in. Alejandro Moreno and Juan Pablo Angel may not be able to overpower Califf and Valdes, but they can cause enough havoc to create the odd opportunity.

Philadelphia is a better team than Chivas. They have been all year. The deciding factor in this game will be personnel. The guys who have driven this recent run of good form need to be on the field from the start. That means Le Toux (duh), Marfan, Torres, Sheanon, Okugo and Garfan. You want Justin Mapp? Gotta drop Pauno. Sheanon Williams is listed as questionable with an intercostal strain. Let’s hope he can shake it off.

Time for the young guns to fire

The Union brought in veterans to show the young core what a winning mentality looks like on the highest level. Mondragon, Valdes, Paunovic, even Adu: They came to Philadelphia because they have been through long seasons and know what they feel like. But these guys were never going to carry the Union all the way. It was always going to be the young bucks who had to pick up the slack when the schedule got tight and the long summer turned into the playoff hunt of autumn. That time is now. And those young bucks? They’ve responded. If you see any one of them on the bench this Sunday, you should be as disappointed as they are. Because this is their team now, and they have been raised well.

If the Philadelphia Union are going to make a mark in the 2011 MLS playoffs they have to win in the west. Here’s a good test run. Let’s see how they do.

Starting lineups

Chivas

GK: Dan Kennedy DEF: Michael Umana, Andrew Boyens, David Junior Lopes, Ante Jazic MID: Justin Braun, Nick LaBrocca, Ben Zemanski, Laurent Courtois, FW: Juan Pablo Angel, Alejandro Moreno

Union

MacAttack, Sheanomenon, El Kaiser, Bearfight, Grrrfan (he’s got bite!), Linguine, AmoBeast, Marfantastic, Adu (time to earn a nickname!, Jack (get in) the Box, SebaStreak

Injuries

Chivas

OUT: MF Paulo Nagamura (R foot); QUESTIONABLE: DF Heath Pearce (hamstring)

Union

OUT: GK Faryd Mondragon (R finger fracture); GK Thorne Holder (concussion); FW Levi Houapeu (L ankle sprain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Sheanon Williams (intercostal strain); MF Stefani Miglioranzi (R knee inflammation); PROBABLE: FW Veljko Paunovic (L calf strain); FW Danny Mwanga (R hip flexor strain)

Suspended

Chivas

Ben Zemanski (yellow card accumulation)

Union

None

Suspended for next yellow

Chivas

Michael Lahoud, Zarek Valentin

Union

Carlos Valdes

Referee

Michael Kennedy – MLS Career: 141 games; FC/gm: 28.8; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 26; pens: 48

When did you think about Keon Daniel on Thursday?

1. At the beginning of the game

2. When the halftime sub was announced

3. When any other sub was announced

4. Why do I have to pick just one moment?

Miscellany

  • The Union have not lost when scoring first or when leading at the half. They have only one win when they don’t score first.
  • Chivas have not won when they trail at halftime.
  • Both teams have 9 shutouts, but Philly has allowed more than 2 goals just once while Chivas has given up 5 goals 3 times.
  • Both teams have 23 second half goals this season
  • Opening line from the Chivas USA official game notes: “Chivas USA look to start October as they finished September with a W against the team from the city of the brotherly loved.

4 Comments

  1. Thought about Keon through the entire game, it’s a real shame we’re missing someone of his caliber.

  2. Wow, who saw a straight red before the game? A starting X???

  3. Free Keon!

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