Match #12 Preview: Philadelphia Union at Colorado Rapids

COMMERCE CITY CO - SEPTEMBER 29: Sheanon Williams #25 of the Philadelphia Union and Anthony Wallace #6 of the Colorado Rapids battle for control of the ball at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on September 29 2010 in Commerce City Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Setting: Saturday, June 4 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City; kickoff scheduled for 9:06:30 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: The Comcast Network (J.P. Dellacamera, Bob Rigby), coverage starting at 8:30 PM Eastern with a pre-game show / Altitude Sports and Entertainment in Colorado / MLS Direct Kick, MatchDay Live (Altitude feed)

Colorado's Record: 4-3-6, fourth in West

Colorado's Last Match: T, 1-1 vs. Sporting Kansas City

Philadelphia vs. Colorado Last Season: 0-1-1 (Colorado 1 @ Philadelphia 1 on August 14; Philadelphia 1 @ Colorado 4 on September 29)

For the Colorado Perspective, Visit Burgundy Wave

Last week, the Union finally showed their offensive potential in their 6-2 route of Toronto FC at BMO Field. Their form was, save ten to fifteen minutes in the second half, strong and aggressive. Their passes connected. Their runs were perfectly timed. Their strikes were on frame. And their chances were finished. For the first time this season, it all came together for Philadelphia. This comes at a perfect time, undoubtedly, with the club traveling west to take on the defending MLS Cup-champion Colorado Rapids tomorrow night before returning home to host Real Salt Lake next week.

The Rapids have continued their solid form from last year into this one, finding themselves a stone's throw away from second in the Western Conference. After a string of five consecutive ties, though, one would have to imagine that -- like the Chicago club the Union faced just about two weeks ago coming off several draws -- the Union are facing a club that is hungry to take full points. They are facing a club that is surely relishing the opportunity to stay at home and avenge their draw against Sporting KC in which Sporting's Ryan Smith scored the equalizer in the 75th minute. Dick's Sporting Goods Park has served as a favorable environment for the Rapids, who are 2-1-3 in MLS play there this year. The play of Colorado over the past several weeks may have been somewhat listless, but certainly that can be turned around on a dime.

The Union are fortunate in that they will not have to face Omar Cummings tomorrow. He is one of a handful of players on both sides that are beginning their international duty-related absences. The Union will still have to shutdown Conor Casey and Jeff Larentowicz, though, and be wary of some of Colorado's very strong depth off the bench. Look, however, for the Union to continue continue to send Jordan Harvey, Sheanon Williams and Carlos Valdes on runs up front in the hopes of some quick transition scoring opportunities.

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

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: Mondragon (C); Harvey, Valdes, Califf, Williams; Mapp, Carroll, M. Farfan, Nakazawa; Mwanga, Le Toux

Colorado: Pickens; Wallace, Moor, Marshall, Kimura; Mastroeni; Thompson, Larentowicz, LaBauex, Palguta; Casey

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, Thorne Holder remains out thanks to his concussion, while Amobi Okugo is unavailable as he continues to recover from a left ankle sprain. Michael Farfan is considered "doubtful" with a right groin strain, while Gabe Farfan, Stefani Miglioranzi and Zach Pfeffer are listed as "questionable" with a left hamstring sprain, right groin strain and recovery from an appendectomy, respectively.

For Colorado, Macoumba Kandji is of course out thanks to an ACL tear in his left knee, while Marvell Wynne and Joseph Nane are also unavailable due to a right hamstring strain and right shoulder strain, respectively. Jamie Smith and Caleb Folan are "questionable" with a left calf strain and right groin strain, respectively. Matt Pickens and Quincy Amarikwa are listed as "probable" despite a right groin strain and left ankle sprain, respectively.

Of note:

  • For those in the Philadelphia area, a brief programming note: Taylor Twellman will not be on the broadcast tomorrow, as he will be with ESPN at the USMNT friendly against Spain at Gillette Stadium. Pitchside analyst Bob Rigby will join J.P. Dellacamera up in the booth/studio in Twellman's place.
  • The match referee will be Jasen Anno. In 24 career MLS matches, Anno has called an average of just under 23 fouls per match, has handed out just over three yellow cards per match, has given a total of 16 red cards and has awarded a total of six penalty kicks.
  • This match is the official beginning of Carlos Ruiz's absence from the club due to national team commitments. For Colorado, Omar Cummings, Tyrone Marshall and Sanna Nyassi have also now begun their international duty-related absences.
  • Tomorrow will serve as the one-month mark since the Rapids' last win, a 2-1 victory at Houston. As noted above, their five MLS matches since that victory have ended as draws.
  • Brian Mullan's suspension continues for tomorrow's match, and through June 26, as punishment for his vicious tackle against Seattle's Steve Zakuani. Danny Mwanga is one yellow card away from receiving a one-match suspension.
  • Ten of Colorado's fifteen goals have been scored from directly inside the box. The Union will need to re-emphasize their shot- and cross-blocking efforts. Clearing the ball out of play for a Colorado throw-in or even a Colorado corner will be, perhaps more than most matches, an entirely acceptable method for the Union to prevent a Rapid from getting a ball cleanly in the box.

The Union look to pick up their second road result in the row against the defending MLS Cup champions. It surely won't be as much of a cakewalk as their match at Toronto appeared to be, but it's an achievable goal. If the Union can retain some of that goal-scoring magic from a week ago and play another solid defensive match (that means no ten minute defensive collapse like against Toronto!), there's no reason why they can't leave Dick's Sporting Goods Park with smiles on their faces. Hope you can join us for a gamethread tomorrow night!

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