Match #23 Preview: Philadelphia Union Vs. FC Dallas

PASADENA, CA - JUNE 25: Freddy Adu #20 of the United States races for the ball against Gerardo Torrado #6 and Carlos Salcido #3 of Mexico during the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Championship at the Rose Bowl on June 25, 2011 in Pasadena, California. Mexico won 4-2. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Setting: Saturday, August 13 at PPL Park in Chester; kickoff scheduled for 8:06:30 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: 6abc HD (JP Dellacamera, Taylor Twellman, Bob Rigby, Jamie Apody) in Philadelphia, with coverage beginning at 7:30 PM Eastern with a pre-game show; available on WQMY-TV in Northeastern Pennsylvania / Fox Sports Southwest (Bobby Rhine, Steve Jolley) and Univision 1270 KFLC-AM (Carlos Alvarado, Rafael Calderon) in Dallas / MLS Direct Kick, MatchDay Live (Fox Sports Southwest feed)

Dallas's Record: 12-6-6, second in West

Dallas's Last Match: L, 3-1 at LA

Philadelphia vs. Dallas This Season: 0-1-0 (Philadelphia 0 @ Dallas 2 on May 14)

For the Dallas Perspective, Visit Big D Soccer

Nary 36 hours ago, when Philadelphia Union fans looked at the club's upcoming home match against FC Dallas, many things probably popped into their head, and they probably all shared this common thread: will they be able to keep pace with the tactically-proficient visiting side? Are they going to be able to generate offense against one of Major League Soccer's stingier teams? Can they prevent Brek Shea from being, well, Brek Shea?

But things changed today for Philadelphia. Drastically. Anxiety was abound about how whether the Union would be able to cope with the loss of Carlos Ruiz. (The Union scoring a total of three goals and going 0-1-2 in their first three matches without Ruiz didn't help, and instead brought back memories of several of Philadelphia's early 2011 regular season matches.) Fans became increasingly concerned that as the international transfer window began to draw to a close, and rumors were few and far between, the Union wouldn't be able to strike a deal to not just replace Ruiz's ability to consistently finish, but to improve on top of that. The Union held their own destiny in seeking a playoff berth in their second-ever season, and seemed to not be taking full advantage of it. That notion, it's fair to say, has all but vanished.

With Freddy Adu in the fold, Nick Sakiewicz and Piotr Nowak have reinvigorated their team for the stretch run of the regular season (and, they hope, a playoff run). There is no mistaking this. If Adu can do what Sakiewicz and Nowak hope, and build on top of the very solid core that has given the team an opportunity to contend, they may have a real shot at having the Eastern Conference championship come through PPL Park.

This team, more than anything, seems to need a statement 90 minutes. FC Dallas is an incredibly consistent and well-organized team -- you simply must be impressed with what Schellas Hyndman and his lucky leather jacket have done over the past two seasons. The Union are presented with an enormous challenge, and if they're serious about wanting to reclaim first place in their conference, tomorrow would be a good time to show it.

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

Likely starters:

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

Dallas: Hartman; Benitez, Ihemelu, John, Loyd; Hernandez, Guarda; Shea, Villar, Chavez; Maicon Santos

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, Kyle Nakazawa and Levi Houapeu are considered "questionable" with an illness and a left ankle strain, respectively. Sheanon Williams is listed as "probable" despite a lower leg contusion.

For Dallas, Edson Edward, Maykel Galindo and of course David Ferreira are unavailable due to a right knee ACL tear, a right hamstring strain and right ankle recovery, respectively. Former Union player Andrew Jacobson, Jackson and Ugo Ihemelu are considered "questionable" with a left knee issue, a right ankle injury and recovery from a concussion, respectively. Fabian Castillo, who absolutely tore Philadelphia apart in their 2-0 loss at Frisco in May, is with the Colombian national team as they host the U-20 World Cup.

Of note:

  • Geoff Gamble is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In just six career MLS matches, he has called for an average of between 21 and 22 fouls per match, handed out an average of just over three yellow cards per match, given a total of one red card and has called for a total of four penalty kicks.
  • Brian Carroll, Carlos Valdes, Sheanon Williams, Daniel Hernandez and Andrew Jacobson are all only one yellow card away from receiving an automatic one-match disciplinary suspension for caution accumulation.
  • Dallas has won 12 matches this season. They have scored the first goal in 11 of those. Philadelphia has won eight matches this season. They have scored the first goal in seven of those. Think that first goal's going to be important?
  • Where does Freddy Adu factor into Philadelphia's game tomorrow? Well, leave it to Piotr Nowak to be be vague about it. All we know for sure is that he'll be on the game-day roster. Does that mean a spot in the starting eleven? It seems relatively unlikely, given that Adu's probably not quite in game shape, not to mention that he's only been with the club for about 24 hours now, so teammate chemistry and full immersion into Nowak's system obviously isn't there yet. It does seem likely that Adu will see some time, even if only a few minutes, for the sake of the fans and media (as far as Nowak's concerned, the quicker everybody gets their five minutes with, and gets over, Adu, the better). But you never know with Nowak.
  • Given that the U.S. men's national team was only in town this past Wednesday, it's pretty funny that this is suddenly a match-up featuring two young U.S. representatives that many think are critical to the national team's future in Shea and Adu. Another sideplot to a match that was already ripe with them.
Will Freddy Adu and Philadelphia pull out the three points that they've been seeking for almost a month now? Or will Dallas continue to torment the Union and prevent them from taking back first place in their conference? Hope you can join us for a gamethread tomorrow night!
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