Wenger goal

Match Preview: Newcomers look to make immediate impact for Union, Rapids in opener

Colorado Rapids at Philadelphia Union

What: Major League Soccer regular season match; When: Saturday, 4 p.m. (kickoff 4:08 p.m)

Where: PPL Park, Chester, Pa.; Tickets: purchase tickets

TV: 6abc featuring play-by-play announcer JP Dellacamera and color analyst Peter Pappas

Radio: None; Online: Streaming video via MLS Live; Social: Follow the action via Twitter: @TheUMatchday; Parking: $20 at all PPL Park approved lots

Mass transit: Shuttle service to and from Chester Transportation Center

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While the promise of warmer weather with the inevitable change of the seasons seems too far off in the distance, a different season starts Saturday afternoon at PPL Park.

And for both teams, it’s a welcome sight. Not the weather, that is.

Philadelphia Union and Colorado Rapids will kick-off the 2015 MLS Regular Season at PPL Park, which has undergone plenty of work and snow removal since Thursday morning’s snow storm that dumped six inches on the area. Along with the help of the Philadelphia Eagles, crews have been digging out the pitch and seating areas at a frantic pace in preparation of Saturday’s game.

Hope spring eternal for warmer weather, too.

But come 4 p.m., both teams will look to get off to a fresh start and put a disappointing 2014 season further in the rearview mirror. Both teams last year showed considerable form at times. For the Union, it was a rejuvenation under then-interim head coach Jim Curtin as the club came flying out of the gates once Curtin took over in mid-June. Along with a run to the U.S. Open Cup final, the team went 6-2-3 in Curtin’s first 11 MLS games and vaulted from 9th place in the Eastern Conference to 4th at the time.

For Colorado, they were a team squarely in the tight Western Conference playoff race until they went winless in their last 14 games (0-12-2).

Thus, both teams are eager to put a tough final stretch behind them and there’s not a better time to do it than a season opener with every team tied on top of the table.

Season openers can always be a bit tricky to predict, but for the Union, expect to see all three of the key offseason additions in forward Fernando Aristeguieta, C.J. Sapong and Steven Vitoria in some form.

Aristegueita had no problem fitting in during the preseason, scoring four goals in just three games (and combined less than 180 minutes) and is clearly showing a natural ability in front of the net. Sapong and Vitoria have always shown to be key cogs in Curtin’s plan and there’s big minute for them ahead this season.

The key to any success for the Union will be breaking down Colorado’s suspect back four, which will still be missing veteran Drew Moor. Obviously, the Rapids struggled everywhere down the stretch last season, but were particularly inept defensively. Fullback Michael Harrington should help stabilize this group and will be an important piece for Colorado moving forward.

Other key additions for Colorado are Marcelo Sarvas and Sam Cronin. Sarvas enjoyed a solid season for the Galaxy last year and was tied for eighth in the league with 11 assists. Cronin, another bruising midfielder, joins the club from San Jose where he had started at least 30 games in each of the last three years.

What do you think is a game plan for success against Colorado? Leave your comment below.

Contact Union press officer Chris Winkler at cwinkler@philadelphiaunion.com.
 


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