Philadelphia Union (6-12-6) will kick off a four-match homestand Saturday against Chivas USA (7-13-4) with both sides clinging to faint playoff hopes. A loss or draw would all but eliminate any remote chance of a miracle finish for either club, but positioning isn’t likely to alter their approach to the match.
The Union return to action for the first time since a 1-0 loss at the San Jose Earthquakes 10 days prior, while Chivas are coming off a 2-0 loss to the Kansas City Wizards last weekend. In the last meeting between the two sides on July 3, Blair Gavin cancelled out an early goal from fellow rookie Danny Mwanga, with neither team able to find a game-winner in the second half en route to a hard-fought 1-1 draw.
If Chivas are to find three points this weekend, they’ll have to snap the home side’s four match unbeaten streak at PPL Park (five in all competitions) and become just the third team to beat Peter Nowak’s squad in Philadelphia. The Union are currently 4-2-5 at home on the season and 3-2-4 at PPL Park. Chivas have struggled away from the Home Depot Center with a 2-8-2 record.
Tickets: Union vs Chivas
The 10 day break has helped the Union mend a few ailments, with Danny Mwanga “doing great” in his recovery from a slightly separated left shoulder and both Eduardo Coudet and Juan Diego González expected to return to action after missing multiple matches. After suffering a mildly separated shoulder against Chicago, Mwanga’s appearance as a substitute against San Jose was the first time since Aug. 7 that he hadn’t been in the first XI.
Brad Knighton will likely be between the pipes again after two strong starts in which he’s conceded only a single goal. In all competitions, Knighton has given up just one goal in 360 minutes of action. The defense in front of him as a whole has tightened up considerably since early season struggles, with a 1.05 GAA over the club’s last 19 matches in all competitions. The combination will be looking for their second shutout of the season in league play, and Chivas’ offense should be relatively easy to contain considering they’ve been blanked in four of the last six games, with only three goals in the same stretch.
Of note, Saturday’s match will be full of players who have featured in the Primera División, the top flight in Mexico, including: Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis FC), Eduardo Coudet (San Luis FC), Mariano Trujillo (Atlante), Carlos Borja (Chivas Guadalajara), Rodolfo Espinoza (Necaxa), Paulo Nagamura (Tigres UANL), Jesus Padilla (Chivas Guadalajara), and Giancarlo Maldanado Atlante.
Matchups to Watch:
Justin Braun vs Danny Califf
While Chivas have struggled in the attack recently, Braun is one weapon who must be watched constantly. The 23-year-old has nine goals and three assists on the season, using his size (6-3, 195 pounds) and pace to outwork opposing defenders. A relentless work-ethic and well timed runs help Braun find space in dangerous positions, and as a result he's emerged as one of the league’s top strikers. In the process, the Salt Lake City native has put himself firmly on the U.S. Men’s National Team radar, receiving a call-up to train with the senior team in December 2009. From a defensive standpoint, the Union's objective is clear: Focus on stopping Braun and then worry about everyone else once the primary mission is accomplished.
The majority of that responsibility will fall on Califf, who has been a commanding presence in the middle in recent matches. While Braun’s speed could pose problems for the 30-year-old, keeping his line organized will reduce Philadelphia's vulnerability. With Braun lining up on the left side of the field, whoever starts at right back for the Union will have to chip in as well. If González is re-inserted into his starting centerback role alongside Califf, Orozco Fiscal would likely be moved back to the right, forcing rookie Sheanon Williams out of the equation. Regardless of who is primarily tasked with stopping Chivas’ leading scorer, the Union’s effectiveness against Braun will be the key to neutralizing Martin Vasquez's side.
Danny Mwanga and Sebastien Le Toux vs the Chivas backline
Le Toux will look to continue a stellar breakout season Saturday with his third straight goal in as many home matches, while Mwanga is hoping to get back on track in the scoring department after five league matches without a tally. With Mwanga healthy enough to reclaim a starting position, Le Toux will likely move to a right-sided attacking midfield role, with Alejandro Moreno slotting in up top as the second forward. Le Toux is in a race to finish the season with the most combined goals and assists in the league (tied with Landon Donovon at 21), and Mwanga is hoping for a strong finish in his push for Rookie of the Year hardware.
Lining up to combat Philadelphia’s attack will be a backline that featured Mariano Trujillo, Dario Delgado, Michael Umana and Ante Jazic against Kansas City. The unit has been steady, but far from spectacular this season, with a 1.35 GAA. Zach Thornton is an anchor in net, but Chivas will be facing a home side hungry for a breakout offensive performance. The Union have scored multiple goals only once in their last 13 matches in all competitions, an underwhelming total for any club, but especially one that creates so many chances in the attacking third. If Philadelphia can break through and convert a higher percentage of their goal scoring opportunities, Chivas will be hard-pressed to keep up in front of a fiery home crowd.
Last Match Highlights
Philadelphia Union Injury Report
QUESTIONABLE: MF Eduardo Coudet (R calf strain)
PROBABLE: GK Chris Seitz (R ankle strain); DF Toni Stahl (R ankle strain); MF Stefani Miglioranzi (L shin contusion); FW Danny Mwanga (L shoulder sprain)
Chivas USA Injury Report
OUT: GK Dan Kennedy (L bicep surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: MF Blair Gavin (L hamstring strain); PROBABLE: FW Giancarlo Maldonado (R hamstring strain)
Date: Saturday, September 25, 2010
Time: 4:00pm ET
Location: PPL Park (Chester, PA)
Television: Live Well HD Network/MyNetworkTV WQMY/Telefutura
Talent: JP Dellacamera (Play-by-Play), Tommy Smyth (Color Analyst)
Referee: Mark Geiger. SAR (bench): Hector Vergara; JAR (opposite): Steven Taylor; 4th: Lee Suckle