CHESTER, PA - JUNE 27: A general view of PPL Park is seen as the Philadelphia Union play 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, March 26 at PPL Park in Chester; kickoff scheduled for 4:08 PM Eastern
Broadcast Information: 6abc HD (J.P. Dellacamera, Taylor Twellman, Bob Rigby), coverage starting at 3:30 PM with a pre-game show and concluding into Action News at 6:00 PM / Rogers Sportsnet ONE (Craig MacEwen, Martin Nash), CFTE-AM TEAM 1410 (Peter Schaad, Paul Dolan) in Vancouver / MLS Direct Kick, MLS MatchDay Live (6abc feed)
Vancouver's Record: 1-0-0
Vancouver's Last Match: W, 4-2 vs. Toronto
For the Vancouver Perspective, Visit Eighty Six Forever
For the first time in team history, the Philadelphia Union have a winning record. Yes, it's a mere 1-0-0 record, and yes, it's a reminder of the impact that brutal 8-away-games-in-first-ever-10-matches had on the club's record last year, but hey, it's better than being 0-1-0, and Union fans will surely take what they can get. And as a reward, the Union return to Philadelphia and will play their second match of the season at PPL Park, which will celebrate its first-ever home opener.
Lincoln Financial Field, PPL Park and the fans that filled them made for friendly confines last year for the Union, who played to a 6-3-6 record on their home pitches. This Saturday should be no exception, as the Union will take on expansion Vancouver Whitecaps in front of an expected crowd of over 18,000.
The Union may not be the flashiest opponent in MLS, but Vancouver will have a rather tough task ahead of them, as any team playing an away match on the other side of the continent will -- let alone an expansion side playing its first ever away match. The Whitecaps are coming off a thrilling 4-2 win against Toronto FC, though, and come into the Delaware Valley with momentum (rare for an expansion team) as well as some cautious optimism. Philadelphia will need to have a strong start and control the tempo right from kickoff if they wish to take full points. The pack-it-in play that was effective, if nerve-wracking, last week at Houston will not suffice against Vancouver, but the Union will need to continue to limit turnovers, particularly in midfield and their own third, and not be afraid to get in the way of dangerous passes and shots. Perhaps an overlooked aspect from that 1-0 win last week was how willing every Union player on the pitch was to step up and nullify dangerous opportunities. The fans will also need to do their part to, shall we say ... make some of Vancouver's players feel uncomfortable ... though I have little doubt those in attendance will be doing their best.
Projected starting lineups, up-to-date injury reports and some additional notes after the jump...
Philadelphia: Mondragon (C); Harvey, Valdes, Califf, Williams; Mapp, Carroll, Miglioranzi; Ruiz, Mwanga, Le Toux
Vancouver (4-4-2): Nolly; Rochat, Duckett, Janicki, Leathers; Wagner, Dunfield, Koffie, Khalfan; Hassli, Harris
For the Union, Danny Califf is listed as "questionable" with a left knee meniscus issue, and Juan Diego Gonzalez has been upgraded this week to "probable" with his left hip flexor sprain. Amobi Okugo and Zac MacMath are away for national team duties and aren't scheduled to be back until mid-April.
For the Whitecaps, captain Jay DeMerit, Michael Boxall and Omar Salgado are away for national team duties, while Michael Nanchoff has been ruled out with a groin strain. Former Union member Shea Salinas, John Thorrington and Davide Chiumiento are listed as "doubtful" with a right knee sprain, right quad sprain and right hamstring sprain, respectively. Russell Teibert is listed as "questionable" with a right hamstring sprain.
- Welcome to the world of being an established MLS team, folks: this is the first time the Union will play against an expansion team. Cue the "damn you upstart whippersnappers" and "get off our lawn" remarks.
- The Whitecaps were just the third (out of ten) MLS expansion team to win their opening match. The other two (Chicago in 1998, Seattle in 2008) made the MLS Cup Playoffs that year. So is that statistic to some extent foreshadowing the remainder of Vancouver's season, or will it serve as a jinx of sorts?
- Yes, I too was surprised to see that Shea Salinas has not been ruled out for tomorrow afternoon, despite having suffered a knee sprain merely three weeks ago. He was quoted as saying, "never count me out for an appearance, especially against my old club."
- Yader Reyes will be the match referee. In the ten MLS matches he has run, he's called an average of just over 23 fouls per match, and has given out an average of about three yellow cards. He has given two total red cards and has not called for a penalty kick.