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Preview: Union vs Revolution

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

What: Union vs New England Revolution

When: 7:00PM EST

Where: PPL Park, Chester, PA

TV: CSN

Referee: Jorge Gonzalez. AR1 (bench): Greg Barkey; AR2 (opposite): C.J. Morgante; 4th: Daniel Fitzgerald

MLS Gameday guide (PDF)

It appears the Philadelphia Union may have finally turned the psychological corner. After losing to Columbus on a goal scored from a clear offside position last Saturday, the team could have returned to their typical, timid form. Instead, Jack McInerney’s sixth goal and a bounce-back game from center half Amobi Okugo highlighted a dominant road win over the third-place Chicago Fire on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, New England has five points since the beginning of August. Their once-promising offense has stumbled, scoring more than one goal only three times over their past ten games. Of those three games, only one brought home three points (a 2-0 win over Columbus). Speaking of home, the Revolution aren’t fond of leaving their own. One win on the road all season suggests a team that relies more on moments of genius than organization.

The north stars

Saer Sene, Lee Nguyen, and Kelyn Rowe are all game changing talents. But they work together about as well Sebastien Le Toux and Carlos Ruiz did for the Union. Without a consistent offensive system that can hold the ball and take pressure off the defense, the developing players in the back often break under the strain.

Indeed, New England began the year under head coach Jay Heaps at the crossroads the Union hit after Peter Nowak was fired. A belief in youth and a patient, players-first head coach made the Revolution look like a team that would struggle while showing glimpses of promise.

And individuals like Sene, Rowe, Ryan Guy and Diego Fagundez have looked like current and future stars. But they haven’t shown that they can adhere to any sort of system.

Building backs

In the back, the Revolution have thrown their chips in with 2011 draft picks AJ Soares and Stephen McCarthy. The former was drafted one spot behind Zac MacMath and the latter one spot behind Michael Farfan. Both have been solid if unspectacular in their two seasons up north, and of the four players Farfan is the only one to clearly establish himself as a potential star.

Injuries change the game

All the work the Revs have done to establish a rhythm this year has been undone by recent injuries. Sene, Nguyen, Chris Tierney, and 2012 draft pick Tyler Polak are all out. Stephen McCarthy is also likely to be missing with concussion-like symptoms.

In essence, this match should be training ground stuff for the Union. Going up against one of the few teams below them in the standings with the added bonus of catching them with a depleted back line and strike force. It’s the dream.

What to look for

New England’s Jerry Bengston offers a wonderful test for Amobi Okugo and Carlos Valdes. Okugo looked his worst against the strength of Kenny Cooper and the agility of Jair Arrieta this season. Bengston has the ability to go either way, offering a dangerous but intriguing matchup for the Union’s center backs.

The other area of interest will be how Philadelphia matches up against Kelyn Rowe. The young midfielder can be dynamic, but he can also make Freddy Adu look like a defensive player of the year candidate. Containing him while exploiting the spaces he leaves is something the Union need to learn to do effectively and consistently going into next season.

Finally, Philly needs to come out like the best team from moment one. After tomorrow, there is only one more chance to show the fans that they have something to look forward to in 2013, and it’s against a New York team that will have something to play for.

A start-to-finish domination of New England is what the fans need to see as the season winds down. And the Union should be able to deliver on Saturday.

Lineups

Union

  • GK: MacMath
  • DEF: Gaddis, Okugo, Valdes, Garfan
  • MID: Carroll, Lahoud, Gomez
  • FWD: Marfan, McInerney, Hoffman

Revolution

  • GK: Shuttleworth
  • DEF: Alston, Soares, Purdie, Barnes
  • MID: Simms, Feilhaber, Rowe
  • FWD: Imbongo, Bengston, Fagundez

Injuries (as of Oct. 2)

Union

  •  OUT: DF Bakary Soumare (R knee menisectomy recovery); FW Krystian Witkowski (concussion symptoms)
  • DOUBTFUL: MF Freddy Adu (L quad strain)
  • QUESTIONABLE: DF Gabriel Farfan (R ankle contusion/R hamstring strain); MF Danny Cruz (L big toe sesamoid stress fracture)
  • PROBABLE: MF Keon Daniel (R knee contusion); MF Michael Farfan (R foot contusion)

Revolution

  • OUT: DF Flo Lechner (R knee MCL sprain); DF Stephen McCarthy (concussive-like symptoms); MF Lee Nguyen (R shoulder surgery); DF Tyler Polak (R foot sprain); FW Saer Sene (L knee ACL surgery); DF Chris Tierney (L knee sprain / L hamstring strain)
  • DOUBTFUL: MF Clyde Simms (R calf tightness)
  • QUESTIONABLE: MF Sainey Nyassi (concussion)

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