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PBPP: First MLS Shutout Gives Union Hope

A long overdue shutout win vs Chicago on Saturday added some hope to the Union’s 2010 season. The club picked up an important three points over a team that could end up in that 8th and final playoff slot. Of equal importance, no team that the Union is realistically chasing picked up three points in week 24.

Toronto and Colorado lost, San Jose and Seattle drew, while Kansas City was idle. Saturday’s win will mean even more if the Union can knock off San Jose Wednesday on the road.

For Philadelphia, there's no time to worry about the other teams. If you take care of business with your own games then you have a chance to get into the playoff hunt. If you lose these upcoming games, the focus will change with a look towards next season.

The immediate focus is on Wednesday night’s road game in San Jose. Philadelphia are faced with a short turnaround, a cross-country flight, and a question mark on Danny Mwanga, who injured his shoulder on Saturday (x-rays were negative). They will be up against a hungry team with playoff hopes, and will also be facing a smaller sized field than they are used to.

To pick up three points, the Union need to put together another 90 minutes like we saw on Saturday. The defending overall was solid, even with the changes that were made. Rookie Sheanon Williams made his MLS debut at right back and showed some promise while Brad Knighton, in his second start of the season, made four saves en route to his first career shutout. Knighton’s body language was strong, looking confident the entire night.

Sebastien Le Toux is on another streak, which can only be good news for the Union. After going five games without a goal, the French striker has now scored goals in back-to-back games.

Justin Mapp had another strong offensive performance, this time versus his former club, assisting on the Le Toux goal and being a presence with his dribbling and passing skills.

Good to see Shea Salinas back in the lineup as a sub after missing 11 games with a fractured left tibula. Salinas came in for Alejandro Moreno, adding fresh legs and breakaway speed to the game. The versatile Salinas was last seen starting at right back for the Union. Wherever Manager Peter Nowak puts him, it does give the team some options.

For Wednesday, the Union have to be concerned with several players:

  • Geovanni -- His quickness, playmaking, and scoring ability all have to be factored in. He is the most dangerous player on the field.
  • Chris Wondolowski -- He looks for openings, usually in or around the box, and he seems to find them. He leads the team in goals with eight, and five of those have been game-winners.
  • Bobby Convey -- He is having a career year, assists-wise. As a left sided midfielder he is good on the attack, using his speed to create opportunities. The Union's right midfielder and right back (whoever they are on Wednesday) need to be up for a huge challenge.
  • Jon Busch -- Where would this team be without him? They certainly would not be in the playoff hunt. Busch took over when both Joe Cannon and the team needed a lift. He lost his job as the starter, but then Cannon suffered an injury, giving the job back to Busch. He is a veteran, used to being in the playoffs, and knows what it takes to play in the big games.

I'm looking forward to Wednesday. It’s a late start with a 7:00pm local time kickoff, 10:00pm in Philadelphia. We’ll be on the air (6abc's Live Well HD Network) at 9:30 pm with the pre-game show. See you then.