Match #32 Preview: Philadelphia Union At Seattle Sounders

CHESTER, PA - JUNE 27: Danny Mwanga #10 (L), Roger Torres #20 and Sebastien Le Toux #9 of the Philadelphia Union celebrate Le Toux's goal against the Seattle Sounders FC at the PPL Park stadium opener on June 27, 2010 in Chester, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Setting: Saturday, October 8 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash.; kickoff scheduled for 10:06:30 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia (Marc Zumoff, Bob Rigby), with coverage beginning following Flyers Post-Game Live / KING 5 and News Talk 97.3 KIRO-FM (Arlo White, Erin Mayovsky), THIS-TV/KOMO 4.2 (Jaime Mendez, Hugo Alcarez-Cuellar) and La Gran D 99.3 KDDS-FM (Rene Aleman, Victor Hernandez, Noe Menendez) in Seattle / MLS Direct Kick, MatchDay Live (CSN Philadelphia feed)

Seattle's Record: 16-6-9, second in West

Seattle's Last Match: W, 2-0 vs. Chicago (U.S. Open Cup final)

Philadelphia vs. Seattle This Season: 0-0-1 (Seattle 1 @ Philadelphia 1 on April 30)

For the Seattle Perspective, Visit Sounder At Heart

When the 2011 MLS schedule was released this past February 10, every member of the Philadelphia Union organization still with the team from its inaugural season circled October 8. On March 25, 2010, the Union took on Seattle, in Seattle, for their first-ever MLS match. The Sounders snatched three points with a decisive 2-0 win. Toni Stahl and David Myrie saw their first, and last, MLS minutes. Danny Mwanga started in midfield. It seems like ancient history, but it was only a little more than a year and a half ago. So much has changed for the Union, but Seattle remains the stalwart -- perhaps even a stronger one -- that Philadelphia suffered a trial-by-fire at the hands of. Those who played in that match and still remain with the club (Mwanga, Danny Califf, Roger Torres, former Sounder Sebastien Le Toux, Stefani Miglioranzi, Amobi Okugo and Jack McInerney) will probably have memories from that night flash up in their minds as they take to the pitch. Three months and a couple of days later, the Seattle visited the Union to help open up PPL Park, and Philadelphia greeted them in style with a 3-1 shellacking. In short, the Sounders hold a significant place in the Union's brief history, so it seems fitting that the Emerald City will be the setting for such a crucial match.

Why so vital? For literally months, the Union have held one or two matches in hand against most of their Eastern Conference opponents. That match in hand has certainly given Union fans some added optimism when looking in the standings -- "look at where they are, and think about if they win that match in hand!" Well, here comes that match in hand. There's only one other MLS match on the docket this weekend, and it involves two non-playoff teams with New England and San Jose. With a draw, the Union would pull into a tie with Sporting Kansas City for first place in the Eastern Conference, and with a victory, they would have first place to themselves for the first time in a while.

After a brief ankle scare, it appears as though rookie goalkeeper Zac MacMath will be able to start tomorrow night. Faryd Mondragon has resumed training after fracturing his right ring finger early last month at Real Salt Lake, but is not yet ready to take back the reins. He and the backline are very lucky that the scorching Fredy Montero won't be available as he serves a one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation, but Alvaro Fernandez and Lamar Neagle are ever-dangerous from midfield. Wonder-find Mauro Rosales, nursing a right MCL sprain, might be kept out of the lineup as well. With Montero missing, expect to see Mike Fucito slot in up top with Nate Jaqua for Seattle.

Projected starters, up-to-date injury reports and assorted notes after the jump...

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: MacMath; G. Farfan, Valdes, Califf (C), Williams; Carroll; Le Toux, Adu, Torres; Mwanga, Paunovic

Seattle: Keller; Wahl, Ianni, Scott, Levesque; Carrasco; Fernandez, Friberg, Estrada; Fucito, Jaqua

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, Faryd Mondragon, Thorne Holder and Levi Houapeu remain unavailable as they recover from a right ring finger fracture, a concussion and left ankle issues, respectively. Zac MacMath is listed as "questionable" with a left ankle sprain, but is still expected to start. Danny Mwanga and Veljko Paunovic are "probable" with a right hip strain and a left calf strain, respectively.

For Seattle, Terry Boss, Michael Seamon, Steve Zakuani and O'Brian White are unavailable due to a concussion, a lateral ankle tendon injury, a right leg fracture and leg surgery, respectively. Mauro Rosales and James Riley are listed as "questionable" due to that right MCL sprain and a concussion, respectively. It's possible that Alvaro Fernandez will be unavailable for Seattle after suffering a "slight concussion" in Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup final, but he says he's feeling "pretty good" and hopes to be able to play.

Of note:

  • Baldomero Toledo, who was the referee in Philadelphia's 3-1 win over Seattle in last year's PPL Park opener, is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In 122 career MLS matches, he has called for an average of just under 25 fouls per match, handed out an average of between three and four yellow cards per match, given a total of 47 red cards and has awarded a total of 47 penalty kicks.
  • Osvaldo Alonso, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Carlos Valdes are all one yellow card away from receiving an automatic one-match disciplinary suspension for yellow card accumulation, like what Fredy Montero is serving.
  • Seattle is a ridiculous 6-6-3 when conceding first. By comparison, the Union are 1-7-6 when conceding first -- and we thought they were good at coming back!
  • Like Philadelphia, Seattle scores more goals in the final fifteen minutes of matches than they do in any other fifteen minute interval. They've scored 13 of their 51 total goals during that span.
  • The Sounders did play on Tuesday in the U.S. Open Cup final against Chicago, and they did play their first-team players. They certainly didn't appear tired in their 2-0 victory, but they did play the previous Saturday at New England, so it's possible that playing three matches in eight nights, including a cross-country trip, could catch up to them mentally and physically at some point tomorrow night.
The Union attempt to reclaim first place in the Eastern Conference, while the Sounders try to keep their Supporters Shield hopes alive. With the incredible atmosphere in Seattle, this one has all the makings of an excellent late-night match. Hope you can join us Saturday night for a gamethread!
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