Philadelphia Union (4-9-3, 15 points) at Los Angeles Galaxy (5-5-7, 22 points)
What: Major League Soccer regular season match; When: Saturday, 10:30 p.m.
Where: StubHub Center, Carson, Calif.
TV: The Comcast Network with play-by-play announcer Marc Zumoff and color analyst Peter Pappas
Radio: None; Online: MLS Live; Social: Follow the action via Twitter: @TheUMatchday
Welcome to rigors of American soccer. A day before the Philadelphia Union take on LA Galaxy to reach the halfway point of their MLS Regular Season, it also happens to be Day Four of a five-game, 15-day jaunt across the country. This weekend, they’re 2,500 miles away from home.
But while the Union haven’t played an MLS game in two weeks – a bitter loss to NYCFC – they’re certainly in the middle of a difficult stretch, but one that has head coach Jim Curtin confident thanks to a penalty shootout win over Rochester Rhinos earlier in the week in the Fourth Round of the 2015 U.S. Open Cup.
“Any time you can get a win, no matter how it is – whether it’s in regulation or extra time – it’s positive for confidence,” he said. “If you look at the last six games – disappointed with the NYCFC game, but I thought we still played OK – we’ve won four out of our last six, it’s a positive.”
It’s five out of seven including the friendly win over PDL affiliate Reading, which if anything else contributes to the busy schedule the Union have been on since mid-May. That forced Curtin to juggle his lineup against Rochester, rotating Sheanon Williams, Brian Carroll and Sebastien Le Toux out of the starting lineup.
But with some ongoing injuries, a long night on Tuesday, and three more games scheduled before the July 4 break, difficult decisions face Curtin and his staff as they prepare for the Galaxy on Saturday night.
“Obviously it’s a tough stretch and a stretch that I thought we would be getting a lot bodies back healthy,” the head coach said. “Turns out that’s not the case. We’re thin up top and after the 120 minutes, it’s going to be difficult, but we’ll go in as the underdog, obviously, against the defending champs in a tough place to play and put a team out there that’s going to compete for points on the road.”
While Williams and Carroll got the entire night off on Tuesday, Le Toux was subbed in late in the second half, but was forced off with what was eventually diagnosed as a left MCL sprain. He’s expected to be out for two-to-four weeks. Also up top, Conor Casey (quad) and Fernando Aristeguieta (ankle) are questionable, leaving a thin front line for the Union.
But expect Williams and Carroll to be back in the lineup Saturday. The two have helped rejuvenate the Union’s defense, along with goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre, who will also be back in the lineup against the Galaxy.
“Brian [Carroll] was nursing a little bit of a groin issue – we think that will be fine for LA,” Curtin said. “And to have Sheanon, Ray [Gaddis] and Fabi in this tough stretch is a good thing. All three guys are capable starters in MLS. All three guys have done a good job. We’ll use all three in a smart way and I feel confident in all three to get the job done and get a win in our league.”
As for Sylvestre, who was tied to Carolina RailHawks for the U.S. Open Cup, the rookie goalkeeper has posted three clean sheets in his first six starts. He’s locked on to the No. 1 job for the time being and certainly has the trust of his teammates and coaching staff.
Two of those teammates in particular, his center backs Maurice Edu and Richie Marquez will enjoy the trip for a little bit of a homecoming.
“Too many friends and family coming – the requests for tickets never ends,” joked Edu, a Fontana native. “But these games are always special. It’s always nice to be able to play in front of your friends and family. Obviously they’re very important to me, they’re a key reason to why I’m here.”
Marquez, a Pomona native, echoed similar statements. But it’s still new for the defender, who could be making his sixth career MLS start.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a different approach,” he said. “I usually take every game about the same, but it’s going to be nice to see my family and some of my hometown friends. That, for sure, is going to be exciting.”
As for the game, Marquez will look to continue his strong play that has earned him a permanent spot in the starting lineup. Since earning a questionable red card in his first start against Vancouver, the defender has helped the team post two clean sheets in four games.
“L.A.’s clearly going to come out with fire – they’re going to want to beat us, especially in front of their home crowd,” Marquez said. “But it’s going to be our job to try to stop that. And I believe we can. I believe in this team.”
What do you think is a gameplan for success against LA Galaxy? Leave your comment below.
Contact Union press officer Chris Winkler at firstname.lastname@example.org.