A hot topic throughout much of the season for the Philadelphia Union has revolved around two key offseason additions prior to the 2014 season. Acquired to bolster the team's lackluster midfield, Vincent Nogueira and Cristian Maidana have both made immediate impacts since joining the club, both of whom came at relatively bargain prices. After all, neither player falls under the designated player threshold and both have proven to be absolutely crucial players.
That is, when they can stay on the field. Nogueira actually started 28 of the club's 34 regular season games last year, but battled some nagging injuries at times during the second half of the seaon. Maidana, on the other hand, started 23 games and missed a vital stretch in August as the club tried to push for the playoffs. This year, each player has faced injuries that have forced them to miss an extended period of time. But what's resulted has been more than a trend.
The Union are 5-3-3 when Nogueira and Maidana combine to play at least 120 minutes. They're just 1-7-1 when the two are at 119 or less. Even worse, they haven't even grabbed a point (0-6-0) when the pair combine for 90 or less minutes. Note the table below, with games of more than 120 highlighted. The other pattern comes in how the table is sorted -- chances created.
Rocket science? No. Beating a dead horse? Maybe. But it's pretty clear to see the Union, at the very least, are a league-average team with both players in the starting lineup and healthy. In the group of highlighted games (11 in total), the Union are averaging exactly 10 chances created per game. In the non-highlighted games (9 in total), they're averaging 6.8. The league average is 9.25.
One other note to pass along about these two: the Union are 4-0-0 when Nogueira scores a goal this year and 3-0-3 when Maidana registers an assist. Draw your own conclusions.
ELSEWHERE: The Union will be without Maurice Edu due to yellow card accumulation. Mo now has eight yellows on the season. Edu will once again be suspended following another three yellows cards. Sheanon Williams and Nogueira both sit at three yellow cards, two away from their first suspension. You may realize Nogueira has picked up four yellows this year, but had his number reduced to three because of the 'Good Behavior' rule.
Without Edu, there's a good chance Ethan White will be back in the starting lineup to pair with Richie Marquez in the back. This pairing worked pretty well the last time the Union faced Toronto when Marquez made his MLS debut. Against Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco, the Union held Toronto to just three shots on target and no goals in the run of play -- Giovinco curled in a beautiful free kick. Of course, the Union still lost the match, 1-0.