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Union v Houston playoff watch

So, what time exactly will Sunday’s game be kicking off? Marc Narducci reports, “If the Los Angeles Galaxy face the Colorado Rapids in the Western Conference semifinal, Sunday’s Union game will start at 4. If the Galaxy play the New York Red Bulls or Columbus Crew, game time for the Union will be 5 p.m.”

How are the Union getting ready for Sunday’s big game? Danny Califf says,

“Teams can get serious and it can be nerve-racking for trainings. I think it has been really good and competitive. Guys can really feel it and are having fun. I think that’s a great spot to be in. You can’t tell necessarily that there are any nerves going into this game. We all understand that this is going to be a massive challenge for us. Houston is a very good team, one of the hottest teams in the league. To prepare, we’re having a good time and enjoying it. The training is competitive and we’re treating it as serious fun…To be loose and having a good time, enjoying it for what it is should be: a tremendous opportunity. It’s not something to be afraid of. I see us enjoying the moment and all of [the excitement] going into this match.”

Faryd Mondragon says, “It was very important getting 180 minutes in before the playoffs. Now I am focused on the playoffs and concentrating on what we have coming up.”

The Union website has a piece breaking down Sunday’s matchup. Can the Union stop Brad Davis? Who will complement Le Toux in scoring?

Goal.com ranks the Union No. 8 in the post season field. In their final power rankings, Goal.com places the Union at ninth. “If the Union cannot find an alternative, non-Le Toux-related route to goal, then it will not stay in the postseason beyond its Eastern Conference semifinal series.”

At MLSSoccer.com, the Union finished the season fifth in the power rankings. “They weren’t particularly impressive against the Red Bulls, but the Power Rankings Committee has a sneaking suspicion that the lineup Peter Nowak fielded won’t be his first choice against Houston next week. They match up well with the Dynamo, who don’t have a consistent threat down the right flank.” At the Seattle Times, the Union finish fifth in the rankings. “Le Toux has been great, but can he do it alone?”

Sons of Ben president Matt Ansboro says of Sunday’s game, “I would not be surprised if the River End is probably a little louder than what it’s ever been.” Me neither!

Dynamo assistant coach Steve Ralston, a longtime player at New England Revolution, says the head spot vacated by Steve Nichol is not his focus. “I enjoyed my time there. But honestly, my job now is to help this team prepare for Sunday. That’s what I’m doing.”

Fox Sports Houston has four reasons the Dynamo are on the rise. “Truthfully, few MLS teams will want to play the Dynamo currently, but the Philadelphia Union will undoubtedly be a real challenge.”

Unholy Union looks at the Union’s postseason as a “second season” and warns to keep an eye on that Brad Davis fellow.

Brotherly Game goes for comedy with a fictional twitter tweeter.

Uwishunu notices the Union are in the playoffs.

Union

The Union is named Overachieving Team of the Year by ESPN.

Zac MacMath and Michael Farfan are named to SBI’s 2011 MLS All-Rookie Team.

Peter Nowak is nominated for Coach of the Year by Soccer America, along with Sigi Schid, Bruce Arena, Peter Vermes and Dominic Kinnear. Nowak is fourth on the list.

ESPN High School soccer reporter Sheldon Shealer tweeted, “Cris Hernandez told me he will turn pro — no college in his future, which is not a surprise. He’s a stud.” The Union academy player, who scored the winner against Everton in the July friendly, is a junior at No. 1 ranked St. Benedict’s Prep. He scored two goals over the weekend.

PSP writer Eli Pearlman-Storch came across Mondragon University, an actual university in Spain. PSP writer Dan Walsh responded there is such a school in Philadelphia and it has one student: Zac MacMath.

Wild Card: Dallas v New York

Previews of tonight’s wild card match between Dallas and New York from MLS Talk, Fox Sports Network previews .

New York’s Luke Rodgers is out with an inflamed knee. What a shame.

Red Bulls manager Hans Backe is confident that Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez will step it up and carry the team in the playoffs.

George John, whose own goal saw Colorado winners of the 2010 MLS Cup, is hoping for a happier ending.

The Dallas Morning News says it is still uncertain what formation will be deployed against New York.

Dallas are hoping to learn from their past mistakes against New York.

2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira, out since April with a broken ankle, is unlikely to fit enough to return to Dallas for the playoffs.

Thierry Henry on the MLS playoff system: “I will never get used to it; in Europe, Los Angeles would be champions…You fight all season like the Galaxy, but rules are rules. You have to adapt to it. I guess it can make things more exciting, but I will never get used to it.”

This article wonders what MLS needs to do to get New Yorkers attention.

The Guardian wonders if the playoffs will be the last time to see Brek Shea in MLS.

English newspaper the Independent says Arsenal is leading the chase for Tim Ream. Sorry, Arsenal fans.

MLS

Sounder at Heart and US Soccer Players look at the positive local and national trends for the league’s TV ratings. Both conclude that while league execs might prefer a LA v New York MLS Cup final, in terms of local ratings, one involving the Union might be better, with Sounders at Heart suggesting a Kansas City v Union final and US Soccer Players a Seattle v Union final.

2011 saw a new record for average attendance at 17,872. The previous record of 17,406 was set in the league’s inaugural season.

MLS fans like to point out that average attendance now surpasses that of the NHL and the NBA. But, as this post describes, if you look at what the average percentage of capacity, MLS lags far behind. Last season, NHL and NBA arenas were at 92 percent and 90 percent capacity. The average for MLS in 2011 was 79.5 percent.

The goals per game average was up slightly this year to 2.58. The Union, along with Colorado and Real Salt Lake, averaged 1.29.

Left-footed penalty takers have a perfect record this season.

Soccer America looks at the problems the New York Cosmos are experiencing in becoming the next big team in MLS.

Local

Penn is looking to create their own Sons of Ben-style of support for their soccer teams.

US

Soccer America breaks down what the new deal Fox secured to broadcast the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and what it will mean to soccer in the US.

Elsewhere

The FIFA Task Force Football 2014 has proposed that referees be more lenient with players who foul in the penalty area to reduce the number of red cards, arguing that the “triple punishment” of penalty, red card and suspension is too severe. Who is the task force leader? Former defender Franz Beckenbauer.

FIFA has charged ten more Caribbean Football Union officials with corruption.

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