While it's still very early in the 2012 season, there's no doubt that the Philadelphia Union and Chivas USA know about the pressure and importance of Saturday's game at the Home Depot Center (10:30 p.m. ET, TCN).
For the Union, unbeaten in their last two, a good result would show that they are on their way, despite their much-publicized offensive struggles.
For Chivas USA, winners of two straight and three of their last four, there's pressure of failing to earn points at home for the fourth consecutive time. What are the odds that Chivas would be 3-3-0 after six games with all of their wins coming on the road and all of their losses coming at home?
This could be a good matchup for the Union, despite the defensive record of their opponent. While Chivas have been stingy, allowing just four goals in six games, much of that success can be attributed to the stellar play of goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, who almost singlehandedly won the last two road games. Only New England, D.C. and Montreal have allowed more shots than Chivas. Kennedy is tied with Kevin Hartman and Donovan Ricketts for the most saves in MLS with 23. Chivas will allow room to attack, unlike their teams of the past which had more bite in the midfield with players like Jesse Marsch and Paulo Nagamura.
With the Union looking to get their offense on track, this is a good game to start. Can they stretch Chivas out wide to open up more room in the middle? Can they find Lionard Pajoy over the top against a back four that's not loaded with speed?
With captain Danny Califf nursing a hamstring injury, Union manager Peter Nowak hinted that we could be looking at a similar lineup to what we saw one week ago versus Columbus. That would mean Raymon Gaddis would get his second straight start at right back and Sheanon Williams a second consecutive game as a central defender.
On the plus side, Gaddis is getting an early opportunity to show what he can do. Were it not for the Califf injury, who knows when Gaddis would have had a chance to be in the starting 11. While this arrangement is only temporary, if Gaddis continues to shows he can play he'll answer questions about the Union's depth in the back.
Both teams have gotten the job done defensively, with the Union sorting out their early defensive issues over the past three games. Chivas have been consistent on defense since the first game, but again, much of this is due to Kennedy. It's the offenses of both teams that have struggled thus far. Each is hoping that Saturday is their breakout game. Chivas may get a boost from the return of Juan Pablo Angel, while the Union may get Danny Mwanga back.
Join Bob Rigby and I for all of the action, starting with the pre-game show at 10 p.m. on The Comcast Network.
WATCH: Union-Chivas preview