PBPP: Union look to bounce back in '12 home opener
On Sunday, the Philadelphia Union will hope for a different outcome than the one we saw on Monday, a season-opening 3-1 loss at Portland vs. the second-year Timbers.
A lot of things will be different this Sunday as the Union host Colorado in Philadelphia's 2012 home opener.
For starters, PPL Park will be packed with a sea of blue and gold, providing the home field advantage that the Timbers enjoyed Monday. Add in the larger grass field and nicer weather and the Union will experience much friendlier playing conditions.
It won't be easy, though, against a Colorado team that won their opener last weekend, 2-0, at home vs. Columbus. That game marked the head coaching debut of Oscar Pareja, who will change the look of this team in 2012.
Many of the core players return from last year including goalkeeper Matt Pickens, forward Omar Cummings and midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, who grew up in the Philadelphia area. It should be easy to spot Larentowicz's family and friends on Sunday. They'll be the ones who aren't wearing Union colors.
Where I see Colorado improving over last year's team is in the attack. Peraja was a physical but very skilled player, good on the ball. I think at the end of the day, this Rapids team will look more threatening on offense with better possession and willingness to go forward. Both outside backs, Kosuke Kimura and newcomer Luis Zapata, like to spring into the attack. Union outside midfielders and backs must be aware of this tendency. Up top, it's the speed of Cummings you must contend with, and he might be better this year with another newcomer, Jaime Castrillon, pulling the strings in the midfield.
As for Philadelphia, what might they do differently on Sunday? There will be at least one lineup change (probably more) with Freddy Adu off with the USA U-23 team that's trying to qualify for the upcoming Olympics. Amobi Okugo (not used in Portland) is also with Adu and the national team.
The Union should have midfielder Roger Torres (ankle) and defender Chris Albright (groin) back and ready to go, off of minor injuries. Gabriel Farfan, who didn't see the field in Portland, is listed as doubtful with a right quad strain.
Philadelphia have yet to beat Colorado in four previous tries, but that's not their motivation come Sunday. The Union simply want and need to erase their last performance and get that home field advantage back after falling at home in the playoffs last season. Last year, averaging better than 18,000 fans per game, the Union lost just once at home in the regular season, and that was to Colorado.
On the heels of ESPN televising Monday's game and that JELD-Weld Field experience, the new NBC Sports Network has this Sunday's game, starting at 4 p.m. Eastern time. No doubt, the network will love the atmosphere at PPL Park.