PBPP: Next Opponent Might be MLS Cup Favorite

JP Dellacamera looks ahead to Saturday's match vs New York

Last Thursday, Philadelphia Union fans saw one of the favorites to win the 2010 MLS Cup when the LA Galaxy came to town.

On Saturday, they get to meet another Cup favorite in the New York Red Bulls. Could this team go from worst to first in a single season? The simple answer is yes, although it won’t be easy.

What other team in MLS (other than LA) can throw three big names at you like Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez, and Juan Pablo Ángel? Add in some other nice pieces like Joel Lindpere, rookie Tim Ream, and an improved Dane Richards, and now you have a legitimate contender.

It’s a good way for Philadelphia to end their season with their last three games coming against very good teams, as the season concludes the following weekend in Columbus.

Back to New York, their big three will hold the key to their MLS Cup success. We all know the individual talent that the trio brings, but can and will they bring it collectively, on the same day, against good opponents? Henry and Marquez continue to say they are not 100% in terms of match fitness. If that’s true, they don’t have much time to get there with the playoffs beginning in late October.

Head Coach Hans Backe has tinkered recently with the lineup, going so far as to not start Ángel in a recent road game, playing with one forward. Over the final regular season games, he will have to sort out his lineup and tactics to put the best possible 11 out on the field come playoff time. Backe has done an amazing job this season behind the Red Bulls bench. Possibly only Schellas Hyndman of FC Dallas can give Backe a run for MLS Coach of the Year.

The team the Union will face on Saturday will most likely be the team that will begin the 2010 MLS Cup playoffs (with the exception of suspended left back Roy Miller). That being said, the Union will need to play a solid game, like they did against the Galaxy, in order to have a chance at picking up some points vs New York.

These teams last met way back in April. No sense watching video from that game as both teams have made multiple changes since then.

Other MLS Notes:

MVP race

There are so many league MVP candidates this year that it becomes more difficult to choose one. Hard to overlook the LA duo of Edson Buddle and Landon Donovan, but you also have RSL’s Nick Rimando, Philadelphia’s own Sebastien Le Toux, Kevin Hartman and David Ferreira of FC Dallas, and San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski. I can’t recall a year where there have been so many legitimate candidates.

We all know the Le Toux story, picked up in the expansion draft and having a year that most players would only dream about. The same holds true for Wondolowski. Do you think that Houston has any regrets over trading him for Cam Weaver? Wondolowski has scored 14 goals, with eight serving as game-winners.

Rookie of the Year race

There are several good candidates here, but the voting should not be as difficult as the vote for league MVP.

If I were ranking the league’s rookies in 2010, I would go with Union forward Danny Mwanga as the top choice, followed closely by DC midfielder Andy Najar and Red Bulls defender Tim Ream.

All to play for

With Kansas City’s win at Chicago on Tuesday, mathematically the Wizards are still alive for the final wild card berth in Major League Soccer. The Wizards have to win their remaining two games, at New England and home vs San Jose, while hoping that Colorado comes up empty at LA and home vs Real Salt Lake. 

Biggest game to watch

Two huge streaks are on the line Saturday when Real Salt Lake play host to FC Dallas. RSL are unbeaten in their last 24 league games at home, while FC Dallas overall are riding an unbelievable 19-game unbeaten streak.