Match preview: Union look to close out before MLS break on a high against the Crew

Look ahead to a midweek clash against Crew (7:30 p.m., CSN)

Keon vs Crew

Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio

Columbus Crew at Philadelphia Union 

When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.; Where: PPL Park, Chester TicketsClick here

TV: Comcast SportsNet featuring play-by-play announcer JP Dellacamera and color analyst Alejandro Moreno

Radio: None; Online: Watch streaming video at mlssoccer.com/live

Referee (s): Silviu Petrescu (main), Greg Barkey, Kevin Klinger, Jose Carlos Rivero (fourth)

Int'l absences: Jairo Arrieta (Costa Rica); Wil Trapp (U.S. U-20)

All-time (eight meetings): Union: two wins (nine goals), Crew: five wins (13 goals); Ties: 1
 
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When the Philadelphia Union walk onto the pitch Wednesday night, it will mark their fourth match in 12 days.

Not an easy stretch by any means.

This particular league match against the Columbus Crew at PPL Park is especially meaningful. And it won't be easy at all.

While the Union need to defend their home field, they also realize that their next home match won’t come until June 23. That’s 18 days. In between, there’s a huge U.S. Open Cup match against D.C. United in Boyds, Md., and a couple of friendlies.

Since the Union are only two points ahead of the Crew in the Eastern Conference standings, this league match looms large on so many levels.

“It’s a huge game for us,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “Talk about being here at home against a conference opponent that is literally on your heels, you really need to get the three points.  It’s a six-point swing, especially in these moments going into a little bit of a break in the MLS season. It’s a really good time for us to download and recover from some of the rigors of playing as many games as we have on the league front for sure.

“This is a massive game and it’s as massive for them. Think of their situation coming here and they know if they can get three points, or get a point, it’s really important. It’s going to be a tough game. There’s a lot on the line in this early stage in the season but this game is big in every single way.”

The Union (5-5-4, 19 points) most recently played to a 1-1 draw Saturday against Toronto FC at BMO Field. Like the previous week, the Union now have another short turnaround.

Columbus (4-4-5, 17 points) enters this match without midfielder Eddie Gaven, who is out for the remainder of the season after he suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in a 2-0 U.S. Open Cup victory against the Dayton Dutch Lions.

More than the opponent, the Union realize they have to remain focused on themselves.

“I think we all know we have to stick to our gameplan and focus on executing what we do,” said goalkeeper Zac MacMath. “We are always working on playing a full 90 minutes and sticking to our plan. We know if we play like we prepare, we’ll be fine and we’ll get our fair share of points. We can't worry who's in or who's out for the other team."

To come away with three points against the Crew, the Union must play consistent football for 90 minutes. Even with the recent flurry of matches, Hackworth doesn’t believe the club is fatigued at all.

“Despite it being the fourth game in 12 days, I think we’re doing well,” Hackworth said. “We really put a lot of emphasis on our preparation and trying to be very efficient in how we work so I think one of our strengths as a group is the fact that we’re fit. We recover quickly, we have the ability to play the number of games that we’re playing in a short timeframe and still try to play at the level we’re trying to.”

Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at andy.jasner@yahoo.com