Match preview: Clash of playoff hungry teams under the lights Sunday in San Jose, Union
San Jose Earthquakes (6-9-7, 25 points) at Philadelphia Union (6-9-9, 27 points)
What: Major League Soccer regular season
When: Sunday, 8 p.m.; Where: PPL Park, Chester, Pa.; Tickets: purchase tickets
Parking: $20 at all PPL Park approved lots (parking layout (Lots B, C)
Mass transit: Regular service with shuttle to and from Chester Transportation Center
TV: Comcast SportsNet featuring JP Dellacamera and color analyst Peter Pappas
The Union lived it. Now it's the Quakes' turn.
That is games in quick succession which will be the case when the Union and San Jose square off this Sunday at 8 p.m. (purchase tickets). San Jose travels east after a Wednesday night Western Conference clash with league leaders Seattle Sounders FC. The two battled to a 1-1 draw and now face Philadelphia, a club that just last week finished 2-1 in a grueling three games in seven day span of its own.
“They are an angry team right now,” said Union manager Jim Curtin earlier this week. “We’ll prepare for them and what they plan to bring. “They’re a changing team right now which is tricky because you got accustomed to playing against guys like [forward Stephen] Lenhart and Alan Gordon up top, and they used to play a lot of long balls, but they are changing that; keeping balls on the ground and playing into space so they are a little unknown…which can be tricky.”
The Earthquakes sit near the bottom of the MLS Western Conference standings but are a team that is beginning to find its form with just one loss in its last six matches. However led by U.S. national team forward and FIFA World Cup veteran Chris Wondolowski’s nine goals, San Jose has three draws over that span and just two wins. San Jose will need to be careful as well on the field given defender Victor Bernardez, midfielder Sam Cronin and forward Stephen Lenhart are all on yellow card caution and could be suspended next match.
Regardless this is a team that is down but not out in their quest to be one of the last teams standing out west.
“We come in and out mentality right now, for today and throughout the rest of the year is just get three points,” said Wondolowski said earlier this week. “That’s what we need; we still believe…that we can make this playoff push right now and we need to start picking up three points whether its on the home or the road.”
In the case of the Union, the team was fortunate to have nine days off from MLS competition and look to returning to winning ways under Union manager Jim Curtin. A team that always had hard luck finishing the myriad chances it created has now been able the find the back of the net this season to the tune of 36 goals in MLS play, 18 of which have been scored inside PPL Park. A bit of good news came this week, as the club saw the return of goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi on Friday in addition to consistent play from Cristian Maidana, the latter who has been sidelined due to a hamstring injury.
With 10 matches remaining – seven of which are inside PPL Park – the Union and its fans are thinking playoffs too. Following San Jose the club has a bit of a break from MLS action until Sept. 3 to kick starts a two-game, four day span. However, there will be a chance to play for certain member of this Union lineup as the Union will host Toronto FC at PPL Park beginning at 7 p.m. (Comcast SportsNet).
“It’s important to all of us to take care of business in this locker room,” said Union defender Ethan White. “You hear it all the time and Coach Curtin preaches it, but it’s really all about guys handling their assignments and knowing where your player is on the field. We do the little things right, I’m confident we’ll continue to be successful.”
What do you think of the Union’s chances against San Jose? Leave a comment below.