The Philadelphia Union begin a four match home stand when they host the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday at PPL Park. The Union enter Saturday’s match with confidence, despite being in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Although the Union have just 11 points and an overall record of 3-7-2, they are one of four teams that are unbeaten at home and are looking to add to their unbeaten streak as they make a playoff push in the second half of the season. San Jose is currently in fifth place in the Western Conference with 19 points coming from a 5-4-4 record, but they are winless in their last five league matches (0-2-3).
For any young team, especially an expansion team, confidence is a major determinant of triumph or failure. The Union have been on both sides of this critical barrier so far this season. Early in the season, it was clear that the inexperienced side lacked the confidence they possess today, largely due to playing nine of their first twelve games on the road. However, the Union appear to be full of confidence and hitting their stride coming off a come-from-behind home win against the Seattle Sounders and a road tie against Chivas USA in their last two games.
The Union will look to take their confidence into their next four home games and climb the ladder in the Eastern Conference. The first step in making a run at the playoffs is defeating a solid San Jose team. The Union are hoping to extend their unbeaten streak to three games, but they will not be satisfied with a tie at home
While the Union appear ready to break away from their early season struggles, San Jose has had struggles of their own recently. The team has not won a game since beating the Seattle Sounders on May 22. Despite recent results, the Quakes have plenty of firepower offensively to put the pressure on the Union defense. Leading the attack for San Jose are forwards Chris Wondolowski and Ryan Johnson, and midfielder Bobby Convey, who hails from Philaelphia. Wondolowski ranks fifth in MLS with six goals, and Philadelphia-native Bobby Convey is second in MLS with seven assists. 2010 third overall pick Ike Opara has also added three goals out of the back for the Earthquakes.
If Philadelphia can lock down Wondolowski and Convey in the run of play and Opara on set pieces, San Jose will struggle to produce many quality scoring opportunities. Offensively, the Union have the skill to break down the San Jose defense. Many of the goals scored by the Union this season have been the result of quality combinations and flank play. If the Union continue to move the ball around quickly and get good service from the wings, attacking threats Danny Mwanga and Sebastian Le Toux will have good opportunities to add more goals to their season totals.
If the Union play well at home, as they have in their previous three home games, they should be able to break down San Jose’s defense and get their second win in as many games at PPL Park.