Match preview: Union look to cut down Timbers in a Saturday night showdown at PPL Park

Preview of tonight's clash against the surging Timbers (7:30 p.m.)

 

Portland Timbers at Philadelphia Union

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Where: PPL Park, Chester, Pa. Ticketspurchase tickets

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

Radio: None; Online: Watch streaming video via MLS Live; Social: Follow via our matchday feed on Twitter @TheUMatchday

Events: Party on the Plaza, 5:30 p.m., Postgame fireworks and a salute to our Armed Forces pregame.

Referee(s): Ricardo Salazar (main), Brian Poeschel, Kevin Klinger, Ted Unkel (fourth)

International duty: Union: Keon Daniel (T&T); Portland: Rodney Wallace (CRC)

All-time (three meetings): Timbers: two wins (four goals); Union: zero wins (one goal); Ties: 1
 
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The Portland Timbers are not only one of the most improved clubs in the league.

They’re also one of the best.

The Timbers have played 19 matches. They’ve lost just two, count ‘em, two. Portland (8-2-9, 33 points) resides in second place in the Western Conference, four points behind Real Salt Lake.

So Saturday’s match between the Timbers and the Philadelphia Union (8-6-6, 30 points) should be a terrific battle.

“Portland has done a really good job and the best thing they’ve done is not lost a ton of games,” said Union manager John Hackworth, who is suspended for this match following his ejection in last Friday’s 3-1 win over Chivas USA. “You pile up the points in draws and it’s impressive. They have a good style, they press you hard. And once they get the ball moving they are a good team in possession. They are one of the top teams right now and deserve the credit they get.”

For the Union, it’s yet another chance to prove their ability to compile points against one of the toughest clubs in the league.

“They are very good, they always find a way to get points,” said Philadelphia midfielder Sebastien Le Toux. “It’s going to be a big game for us. We need to show we can compete against good teams in this league.”

The Union could potentially receive a boost from leading goal scorer Jack McInerney, who was released from the U.S. Men’s National Team Gold Cup roster on Wednesday.

If for some reason McInerney is unavailable, the Union have plenty of options. Forward Conor Casey has been outstanding in recent matches, compiling five goals and two assists in the last six matches.

“I just sit back and smile,” Hackworth said. “I’ve watched a lot of games and I like the fact that Conor Casey is on our team. I had this feeling that Conor could do the things he’s showing us right now. It’s good to have him.”

It will be good to have midfielder Kleberson as well. He has been sidelined since June 1 with a strained hamstring but has slowly been recuperating.

“Kleberson in particular has done a lot of work on his own,” Hackworth said. “There’s a reason he’s a player at the level he is, he takes care of himself. That has been a pleasant surprise.”

Meanwhile, Hackworth will watch the match from a luxury suite, and the Union will be managed by technical director Rob Vartughian.

“Most of the work is done before we get to the game,” Hackworth said. “These guys are professionals, they have gone through it. It’s not the first time it’s happened to us or to our players. Rob will be the head coach for the game and he’ll be supported by Brendan (Burke) and Jim (Curtin). Nothing will change in our game plan. It’ll be different for me and harder for me to sit up in the booth and not have any true interaction with the team. But I have all the confidence in the coaching staff and players.”

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