When you look at all of the numbers, very little separates the Philadelphia Union from tomorrow’s opponent, the New England Revolution. Both teams have 14 points this season, and each has had to deal with defensive problems resulting in 26 goals allowed. Only DC United have given up more total goals, but they have played more games than Philly and New England.
Both are led by experienced, talented coaches. When people talk about the Revs' Steve Nicol, and the Union’s Peter Nowak, it’s usually in a discussion about who some of the better coaches/managers are in MLS.
The one thing that currently differentiates these two clubs lies in the offense. New England lacks a dynamic player along the lines of Sebastien Le Toux. They don’t have a player at the moment who can lift a team the way that Le Toux does. Fresh off an appearance as a starter in Wednesday’s MLS All Star game, Le Toux is tied with Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle and Fredy Montero for best combined offensive numbers in the league, registering seven goals along with the same number of assists. His game might become even better now with Philadelphia’s recent midfield acquisitions, Eduardo Coudet and Justin Mapp.
As I look forward to Saturday’s game at PPL Park, here are some things to look for in the Revs at Union match:
- Do newcomers Mapp and Coudet start in this game, or see action as reserves?
- If either or both start, who comes out of the lineup?
- Rookie matchup is a good one with Philadelphia’s Danny Mwanga and New England’s Zack Schilawski among the top Rookie of the Year candidates
- Will there be any rust from either team as Philly hasn’t had an MLS game since July 17 vs Toronto, with the Revs' last MLS game coming back on July 10 vs Los Angeles?
- Can the Union break down a New England defense that is coming off of four consecutive shutouts, one in league play, the other three in SuperLiga? The Revs haven’t given up a goal in their last 365 minutes of competition. Getting back goalkeeper Matt Reis and central defender Darrius Barnes from injury makes them better defensively.
Key players to watch on Saturday:
- Le Toux for obvious reasons. His numbers are great, his constant effort and consistency might be even greater.
- For New England it’s Shalrie Joseph. For my money he’s the best defensive midfielder this league has ever had. The Union will have to earn their space in the midfield tomorrow as there are no easy days when you go up against New England’s feared number 21.
See you at the stadium.