At long last, it's just days away: The Philadelphia Union will play their home opener on Saturday in front of a packed Lincoln Financial Field.
Philly-area soccer fans may not have liked the result in the Union’s first match in Seattle last month, but they were all treated to finally seeing their team in action. For the Sons of Ben who traveled to Seattle, just being at the Union’s first official match was incredible. It’ll be even more impressive when Philadelphia gets to see them play first hand.
The Union’s first home date will be with D.C. United, the rivals to the south and a team off to a woeful start this season. They’re also one the Union could very well take some points from in their first home game.
Ahead of the official preview coming later this week, here are a few thoughts about what we might see from both teams in Saturday’s match.
Line-up changes: The Union will surely boast a very different side when they take the field at the Linc. With Toni Stahl out to suspension and David Myrie being shown the door, things may look slightly different in the back.
Peter Nowak may drop Michael Orozco into the right-back slot and give Shavar Thomas the center-back role next to Danny Califf. If it becomes official, Union fans may also see former Puerto Rico Islanders right back Christian Arrieta in the side, but a start this soon may be a reach.
In the middle, Nowak has lots of options, but expect Fred to make his Union debut after missing the Sounders match due to a suspension that carried over from last season. Playing against his old team, the Brazilian should be motivated to put in a strong performance.
As far as the forwards go, the same three players who patrolled the opposition area during First Kick may return. Arguably the two most useful Union players against Seattle, Alejandro Moreno and Sébastian Le Toux should get another look against D.C., along with Danny Mwanga, who was only withdrawn at halftime due to Stahl’s ejection.
D.C.’s worries: After two matches this season, United have yet to get on the score sheet, shut out 4-0 by Kansas City and then 2-0 by New England this past weekend. Second-year man Chris Pontius is being relied on heavily to score the goals and he doesn’t seem ready to do that as yet. His strike mate, longtime D.C. captain Jaime Moreno, seems to have a slowed a bit as well.
New coach Curt Onalfo wasn’t the first choice to take over the club in the offseason, and by the looks of things, some in the nation’s capital may be scratching their heads over what he’s actually brought to the team after two lackluster seasons in Kansas City.
The former D.C. contingent: It’ll be a special night for a trio of Union personnel as Fred, Andrew Jacobson and Nowak all will be facing off against their former team. Fred spent the better part of three seasons with the club, scoring 11 goals.
Jacobson, now in his second season in MLS spent a year in D.C. after being drafted 24th overall in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft. He made 17 appearances for the club in 2009 and was considered a solid contributor to the team that just missed the playoffs.
Finally, we all know about Nowak’s history in D.C., as the Polish manager ran the team from 2004 to ‘06 and was able to bring the city its fourth MLS Cup in his first season. Coaching against Onalfo, with whom he worked with the U.S. national team, will also be an interesting twist for the veteran boss.
Five days still to go before the start of the Union’s home campaign but there’s obviously lots to discuss. From the inevitable shift in the lineup to those ready to compete against their former team, the home opener has plenty of intrigue surrounding it. Combine the packed house at the Linc and the city of Philadelphia should be in for a wild ride.