Preview: Union vs Rapids

Colorado marks the last club Philadelphia will face for the first time

Le Toux and Casey

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

After a hard-fought draw with
defending MLS Cup champs Real Salt Lake Wednesday, Philadelphia Union (4-10-4) will
take the pitch again Saturday against the Colorado Rapids (7-5-6). The Union
are winless in their last four matches, while the Rapids were winless in their
last seven before a 1-0 home victory against the San Jose Earthquakes last weekend.

Philadelphia sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with
16 points, with Colorado currently occupying the fifth spot in the West with 27
points. Due to MLS’ playoff structure, Colorado would be the number four seed
in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket if the season ended today.

Colorado, the only MLS side the Union haven’t played in
their inaugural season, will likely have U.S. international Conor Casey back in action
after the forward missed two matches with a head injury suffered against
Seattle on July 25. They won’t, however, have the services of midfielder Colin
Clark, who has been ruled out for the season after suffering a torn ACL against
Kansas City. 

For the second consecutive time, Philadelphia scored within
the opening 10 minutes of the match Wednesday only to lose the lead before the
half. It was the third time in their current four-match winless streak that the
club have scored the opening goal in the first half and not come away with
maximum points.

The Union are still the only team in MLS not to have
recorded a defensive shutout this season, with a league-worst 1.88 GAA. No team
in MLS history has gone the entire season without a defensive shutout – the MLS
record low is two, set on six previous occasions (most recently by the LA Galaxy in 2008).

Colorado’s defense, on the other hand, has been the fifth toughest
unit to beat this season with a 0.94 GAA. Goalkeeper Matt Pickens has been
strong in net for the Rapids, while Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne have been
consistently solid in the back. Head coach Gary Smith’s side has also been
helped on the defensive end by their central midfield pairing of all-star Jeff
Larentowicz and team
Pablo Mastroeni. Saturday is shaping up to be a milestone affair for Mastroeni, who could set a new Rapids record for minutes played with only 87
standing between him and current Seattle Sounders technical director Chris Henderson.

The Union are
expected to have the services of two regular starters who missed the Real Salt
Lake match, Alejandro Moreno and Stefani Miglioranzi. Moreno missed Wednesday’s
tilt to join the Venezuelan National team for a friendly against Panama, while
Miglioranzi missed the last two matches after going down July 5 with a groin strain against Columbus.

Matchups to

Danny Califf vs
Conor Casey

Presuming that Casey is inserted back into his normal role,
the burly striker will be a load around Philadelphia’s penalty area. Casey has remained an attacking force in 2010 with
seven goals and three assists following a career year in 2009, during which he
set a new Rapids single season scoring record with 16 goals to finish only one
behind FC Dallas' Jeff Cunningham for the league lead. Casey was named to the
MLS Best XI squad for the first time in his career, also garnering MLS
All-Star honors along the way.

One Union defender who
will see a lot of Casey is Califf, who will have to be decisive in his tackling
and assertive winning balls in the air. Califf has the size and strength to
body up Casey in the box if necessary, but the Union captain will be better served cutting off passing lanes
to prevent Colorado's leading scorer from receiving the ball in dangerous positions.

Califf and the rest of
the Union back line will also have to keep a close eye on Omar Cummings, whose
speed can cause serious problems. The 28-year-old only has three goals
since June 9 after scoring in each of the first two weeks of the season, but
his eight goals and 12 assists in 2009 are more than enough proof that the
Jamaican international can do damage if given the chance.

Fred and Justin Mapp vs Jeff Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni

Larentowicz and Mastroeni make up one of the better holding
midfield pairings in MLS, regularly stifling the opposition’s rush and igniting
the counter attack. Larentowicz, a West Chester, Pa.
native, will be especially excited to perform in front of over 100 family
members and friends who have purchased tickets for the match. The 27-year-old,
who came to Colorado in an offseason trade after spending his first five seasons in New England, will be tough to work around for whoever lines up on the left
flank, a position that both Fred and Mapp have occupied at times over the past few

Mapp has shown plenty of pace and ability to beat defenders 1v1 along the touchline, something the Union lacked before his signing. While
Shea Salinas has the capacity to do so as well when healthy, the former Chicago
Fire member has fit in seamlessly with his new club and appears to have grabbed
hold of a regular starting role. While he’ll have a tough task against either
Larentowicz or Mastroeni, Mapp’s rejuvenated form suggests a breakthrough is to come in
the near future.

If Fred and Mapp can find ways to feed Sebastien Le Toux and
Danny Mwanga behind Colorado’s dynamic midfield duo, the Union will be
in good shape on Saturday.

Danny Mwanga and Sebastien Le Toux vs Colorado’s defense

It’s no secret at this point that Le Toux and Mwanga are the
most feared strikers on Philadelphia’s roster, accounting for 15 of the club’s
22 goals. Le Toux has catapulted from part-time starter to one of the league’s
premier players in just over half a season, while Mwanga has lived up to his
enormous hype and then some. With an incredibly efficient six goals on only 17
shots, Mwanga uses his pace, physicality and clinical finishing to
capitalize on the attention paid to Le Toux. With nine goals and eight assists,
Le Toux is closing in on double digits in both categories, a feat only one
MLS player has accomplished in the last three seasons (Jaime Moreno, with 10
goals and 10 assists in 2008). 

Attempting to combat the Union’s feared attackers will be a
defense led by Moor and Wynne, along with goalkeeper Matt Pickens. Moor has
stabilized Colorado’s defense since being acquired from Dallas in August 2009,
and 2006 number one overall pick Wynne has been a revelation since coming over
from Toronto and settling into a more defensive role. Their ability to handle
Le Toux, Mwanga and veteran Alejandro Moreno could be the decisive factor in
Saturday’s match.

Last Match

Philadelphia 1, Real Salt Lake 1

Colorado 1, Kansas City 0

Union Injury Report

OUT: MF Shea Salinas (L fibula fracture)

PROBABLE: DF Jordan Harvey (L groin strain); MF Stefani Miglioranzi (R groin strain); FW Danny Mwanga (L groin strain)

Colorado Rapids Injury Report

OUT: MF Colin Clark (L knee ACL tear); MF Ciaran O'Brien (L hip sprain); FW Ross Schunk (R ACL tear)

PROBABLE: FW Conor Casey (head trauma); MF Jamie Smith (neck strain)


Date: Saturday, August 14, 2010

Time: 4:00pm ET

Location: PPL Park (Chester, PA)

Television: 6abc, MyNetwork TV – WQMY,

Talent: JP Dellacamera (Play-by-Play); Kyle
Martino (Color Analyst)

Referee: Terry Vaughn. SAR (bench): Greg Barkey; JAR (opposite): Corey Rockwell; 4th: Lee Suckle