Preview: Union vs Galaxy

Philadelphia looking to extend home unbeaten streak to seven on Saturday

While the MLS Cup Playoffs are no
longer attainable for the expansion Philadelphia Union, there is plenty to play
for in the club’s three remaining matches. Facing both conference leaders at
PPL Park and another top five club on the road to finish out the season, Peter
Nowak’s side has pride on the line, not to mention roster spots to contend for
heading into an offseason that will feature a two-team expansion draft.

Next up is a sold-out, nationally
televised matchup against the league-leading LA Galaxy (8:00pm ET, ESPN2/ESPN Deportes), a contest that will see
David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Golden Boot frontrunner Edson Buddle in town for the first time. The Galaxy regained the lead in the MLS overall table
on Sunday evening with a 2-1 win against Home Depot Center rivals Chivas USA,
while the Union are fresh off a 1-1 draw vs Houston on Saturday. In the last meeting between the two clubs, LA took a 3-0 first half lead on the heels of a brace from Buddle, more than enough to hold off a late consolation strike from Jack McInerney, the first of the rookie's career. 

Philadelphia have only lost at home
twice all season, sporting a 5-2-6
record at home and 4-2-5 mark at PPL Park. The Union have only given up four
goals in their last six league matches along the Chester Waterfront, not counting a 1-0 victory
over CD Guadalajara. The Union’s home-field advantage may be less pronounced
than usual, however, against a Galaxy side that features by far the best road
record in MLS. Bruce Arena’s squad is 8-3-3 on the
road this season, assuring them of the best road record in the league this
season.

While early-season defensive dominance
helped LA mount a 10-0-2 record to start the season, they’ve come back to earth
since. After keeping nine clean sheets in their first 13 games of the season, a
defense led by Omar Gonzalez and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts have kept just two
in their last 14 games. The 11 shutouts are tied with Columbus, New York, San
Jose and Seattle for second most in MLS this season, with only Real Salt
Lake keeping more (13). On the season, LA have allowed 22 goals in 27 games for
a 0.81 GAA.

While injuries aren’t expected to be a
factor for Philadelphia -- no player is listed as worse than probable on the
injury report -- the Union will be without starting striker Alejandro Moreno,
who is on international duty with Venezuela. FIFA action won’t cost Donovan,
Buddle or Gonzalez any time after Bob Bradley opted not to call upon the trio
for the U.S. Men’s National Team’s two upcoming friendlies.

Matchups to Watch:

Danny Mwanga vs Omar Gonzalez

Two of Major League Soccer’s brightest
young stars will go head-to-head at PPL Park in what could potentially be a
matchup of two consecutive Rookie of the Years winners. Mwanga hasn’t wrapped
up the 2010 award, of course, but a strong finish to the season could be the
icing on the cake for the 19-year-old. With Moreno out, Mwanga will be counted
on even more than usual to supplement Sebastien Le Toux’s offensive production.
Mwanga has hit a scoring drought spanning eight matches (a shoulder injury has
largely contributed to the drop in form), yet the number one overall pick still
paces all MLS rookies.

Finding space won’t be easy against
Gonzalez, a towering presence in the center of LA’s backline. The 21-year-old
is a force in the air and becoming better and better at organizing his fellow
teammates with each passing match. LA may attempt to neutralize Mwanga with
Gonzalez alone and focus the majority of their remaining defensive attention on Le
Toux, in which case the outcome of the battle between the two prized youngsters
will be critical.

Sebastien Le Toux vs Edson Buddle and
Landon Donovan

Le Toux may not be physically matched
up against Buddle or Donovan Thursday (although considering Le Toux’s work
rate, don’t be surprised to see him track back behind LA’s duo), but
Philadelphia’s MVP candidate is locked into individual battles with each
heading down the stretch. Two goals behind Buddle’s 15 in the MLS Golden Boot
race, Le Toux (13 goals, 10 assists) leads Donovan (7 goals, 14 assists) by the
same number in combined goals and assists for the league lead. FC Dallas’ David
Ferreira (7 goals, 13 assists) sits in third, while Seattle’s Fredy Montero (10
goals, 9 assists) rests in fourth.

If Le Toux has aspirations of catching
Buddle with only three matches to go, outperforming him -- more specifically,
outscoring him -- on Thursday may be as much as necessary. Donovan is likely to
add to his total as well before season’s end, so Le Toux would do well to
add to his narrow cushion. It goes without saying that contributing
statistically to yet another goal on Thursday -- Le Toux has done so on 72 percent of the
Union’s tallies this season -- would help Philadelphia’s chances of defending
their home grounds.

NOTE: New and gently used coats will be
collected at PPL Park during Philadelphia Union's home matches in October to
help keep Chester residents warm this winter. All donations are greatly
appreciated. 

More Analysis

WATCH: Galaxy Preview

Home Crowd in Union's Favor This Time Around

Union Ready to Defend Fortress vs LA

Union Look to Play Spoiler vs Galaxy

Pride on the Line Thursday vs Galaxy

Set Pieces: Beckham-Mania Sweeps Philly

PBPP: Random Thoughts from Week 27

Last Meeting Highlights

LA 3, Philadelphia 1

Last Match Highlights

Philadelphia 1, Houston 1

LA 2, Chivas 1

Philadelphia Union Injury Report

PROBABLE: GK Brad Knighton (L shoulder
strain)

DF Juan Diego González (L groin
strain); MF Eduardo Coudet (R calf strain); FW Danny Mwanga (L shoulder sprain)

LA Galaxy  Injury Report

QUESTIONABLE: DF Gregg Berhalter (neck
strain); MF Dema Kovalenko (R adductor strain); DF Leonardo (L quad strain)

Match Information

Date:
Thursday, October 7, 2010

Time:
8:00pm ET

Location: PPL Park (Chester, PA)

Television: ESPN2/ESPN Deportes

Talent:
JP Dellacamera (Play-by-Play), John Harkes (Color Analyst)

Referee: Jorge Gonzalez. SAR (bench): Corey Rockwell; JAR (opposite): Greg
Barkey; 4th: Chris Penso