FC Dallas at Philadelphia Union
When: Saturday, 5:30 p.m.; Where: PPL Park, Chester; Tickets: Click here
TV: NBC Sports Network with play-by-play announcer Arlo White and color analyst Kyle Martino
Radio: None; Online: Streaming online at MLS Live
Referee(s): Allen Chapman (main), Adam Wienckowski, Matthew Kreitzer, Daniel Radford (fourth)
International duty: Richard Sanchez (Mexico U-20); Kellyn Acosta, Danny Garcia (U.S. U-20)
Following an emotionally-charged 3-0 victory over I-95 rival New York six days ago, the Philadelphia Union face an even tougher challenge on Saturday.
Repeating the feat.
It sure won’t be easy against ultra-talented FC Dallas at PPL Park.
FC Dallas (8-3-5, 29 points) is in second place in the Western Conference, just one point behind Real Salt Lake and Portland.
“I think it is a challenge,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “There’s no question. We need to do a really good job of staying focused and not still thinking about New York. So far this week, I think this team has responded very positively. From what our staff can tell and the conversations we're having during training, we're fully focused on Dallas. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you its different. There is a normal little bit of letdown because you build up the rivalry game.
“You build up the importance of trying to beat somebody in front of you for the first time. That was a huge game. But we knew this stretch was going to be tough the whole time and so I think in our planning and the way we presented it to the players, we talked about this four-game stretch as being pivotal to our success all year long. Hopefully, I think they’ll be ready on Saturday for it.”
The Union (7-5-4, 25 points) are tied with New York for second place in the Eastern Conference, four points behind the Montreal Impact.
If the Union want to jump past the Red Bulls, they’ll have to play at a level comparable to last Saturday.
“I think FC Dallas has had a great start to the year,” Hackworth said. “I think they’ve been at the top of table for the entire year and they’re sitting third in the Supporters Shield, third in the west, but have had a very productive start to the first half of the season. They’re a very good team in all ways. We don’t see many weaknesses in their lineup. They’ve been consistent with the way they’ve played. I just think it’s going to be another big challenge for us at PPL. The good news is we’ve proven we can beat a team ahead of us.”
Another challenge for the Union will be in the midfield.
Keon Daniel has left for the Trinidad & Tobago National Team for the Gold Cup. Danny Cruz suffered a lower leg contusion against New York and Kleberson is questionable with a right quad strain.
Enter Michael Farfan.
“I don’t think anything’s changed with Michael,” Hackworth said. “I think our team has gotten better. I think we relied on Michael a lot last year and clearly he had a very good year. He was named an All-Star. That got him a lot of attention and I think teams also started to key on him a little more. This year we’ve moved Michael around because he’s versatile.
“We’ve put Keon in the middle of the field more often because that's where Keon has played better. From my point of view, Michael is exactly the same player as he was last year. He’s a really important player.”
It will take a team effort for the Union against an FC Dallas side, which is loaded from top to bottom.
“I think they’re one of the best teams in the league,” said Union midfielder and captain Brian Carroll. “They’ve just lost the top spot in the west but they’re right in that running. They’re a very dangerous squad. They’re experienced. They have a lot of young talent and some speed as well so they’ve got a good blend of everything. It’s going to take everything that we have and for everyone to play a good solid match to get a good result here.”
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Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at email@example.com