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Play-by-Play Plus: With favorable slate of matches at home upcoming, time to get serious for Union

After coming off two games in four nights and dealing with altitude, heat and humidity, the Philadelphia Union return home for a good stretch that can define their season and their playoff push.

Manager John Hackworth's team is facing a favorable stretch where four of the next five games will be played at PPL Park. The club will still be missing Jack McInerney (United States) and Keon Daniel (Trindidad & Tobago), for CONCACAF Gold Cup duty but injured starters Michael Farfan and Danny Cruz should be returning to the lineup after missing the Houston game with injuries.

Midfielder Kleberson should also be back soon, while the team's newest signings in goalkeeper Oka Nikolov and left back Fabinho are now eligible to play with the opening of the summer transfer window.

Looking at some of the bright spots lately for the Union, one can see the impact that Conor Casey is having on this young team. While the veteran and his teammates were shutout against the Dynamo, Casey had scored four goals in the previous four matches.

Also of significance, Casey played two full 90's in that four day period. For a player that has battled with his share of injuries, this was good news for the Union.

Another plus has been the play of rookie Leo Fernandes.

The midfielder played over 70 minutes in back-to-back games – in two different positions. He's a player who now adds more depth to the midfield. A late pick in the supplemental draft – much like Antoine Hoppenot was – it would appear the Union did the homework on this young player.

So a rested Union team, in fourth place, will meet Chivas USA on Friday in the only MLS game of the night. A win would temporarily put the Union in a tie for second in the East with Sporting Kansas City.

A win against Chivas USA these days though is easier said than done. While winless in their last 13 games, the club shows signs of life since a coaching change put Jose Luis Real in charge. In five games under the new leader the team has lost two while picking up three straight draws. Of note, a team that struggled mightily on defense this season has only given up six goals in the last five games played and only two goals in their last three games.

Playing their third game on the road over a nine-day period, the club will have some reinforcements with recent signings Carlos Bocanegra and Erick Torres eligible to play on Friday. The former captain of the U.S. national team, Bocanegra should be a big boost to the team on the defensive side while Torres, a 20-year-old forward is expected to bolster an offense that has struggled all season.

Even with the coaching change, Chivas has managed only three goals in their last five games. Only D.C. United has scored fewer goals this season than Chivas.

Union fans can see former Union midfielder Gabe Farfan in his return to PPL Park. Gabe has gotten more playing time on the West Coast than he did here back East, as he’s played in eight straight games and started the last seven. If he and twin brother Michael both start, it would be the first time the brothers have played against each other at the MLS level.

Game time at PPL Park is 7:30 p.m., purchase tickets. For those that can’t make it out to PPL Park, the game airs on The Comcast Network starting at 7 p.m. with the pregame show.