BALTIMORE - JANUARY 13: Fifth selection Zac MacMath of the Philadelphia Union speaks to the audience during the 2011 MLS SuperDraft on January 13 2011 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore Maryland. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images)
Setting: Wednesday, September 7 at PPL Park in Chester; kickoff scheduled for 8:08:00 PM Eastern
Broadcast Information: The Comcast Network (JP Dellacamera, Taylor Twellman, Bob Rigby), coverage beginning at 7:30 PM Eastern with a pre-game show / Comcast SportsNet New England and 98.5 The Sports Hub WBZ-FM (Brad Feldman, Jay Heaps) in New England / Galavisión (Jorge Perez-Navarro, Diego Balado) nationally in Spanish / MLS Direct Kick, MatchDay Live (Canada only)
New England's Record: 4-11-11, ninth in East
New England's Last Match: T, 2-2 vs. New York Red Bulls
Philadelphia vs. New England This Season: 1-0-0 (Philadelphia 3 @ New England 0 on July 17, the Union's last MLS win to date)
For the New England Perspective, Visit The Bent Musket
After another disappointing result for the Philadelphia Union that saw them take no points at Rio Tinto Stadium against Real Salt Lake, the team returns to PPL Park for their second of three matches in eight nights. The team was dealt an even more crippling blow, though, than the individual result: All-Star keeper Faryd Mondragon had fractured a finger, and is expected to be kept off the pitch between two and four weeks. Rookie Zac MacMath played exceptionally well in his MLS debut in the second half in Utah as Mondragon was taken out for X-rays, and the US Men's National Team prospect is expected to be right back between the pipes tomorrow as Philadelphia hosts the New England Revolution.
And it might be very fitting that the Union host the Revs, considering that the team's last MLS win to date came in a 3-0 victory at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough on July 17. As Boston-native Sheanon Williams scored on a virtual breakaway in the match's final minutes to put a cherry on top of the Philadelphia shell shock, all Union fans could think about was how different this year's team was from last year's -- there was a true level of consistency in their game, and mistakes in the back had been minimized (and, really, almost eliminated entirely). Oh, how things change. Perhaps it's a coincidence, and perhaps it's not, but that night saw Carlos Ruiz play his final minutes, and score his final goal, in a Union uniform. Regardless, the team has has taken the pitch since then looks much more like the 2010 Union than what was thought to be the 2011 Union. Well, in reality, it's been sort of the worst of both sides: the defense has become shaky (2010) and the offense tends to sputter until the team's backs are too far against the wall to recover due to time or the score (2011). Now the only thing all Union fans can do is ask whether the team is just in a poor stretch, hurt somewhat by injuries and a suspension, or is this the new reality? The team has already made its path towards a potential playoff berth much more difficult following the results it has accumulated over the last six weeks, and losing the goalkeeper that has started every single league match for the team this season surely can't help.
The team and the media (including us) have made a good-sized fuss as each match day has arrived over the last month and a half about how important the points at stake were, how the team was approaching must-draw or must-win situations, etc. It's probably fair to say that the team has arrived at that point. They host hapless New England tomorrow, and the wildly inconsistent Portland Timbers this Saturday. For the team to remain with the playoff pack, and to regain a somewhat comfortable footing, six points are likely to be necessary after these two matches are concluded. Before worrying about Saturday, though, the Union need to take three points at PPL Park tomorrow night -- and that's not really an option. Philadelphia is making up another one of its crucial matches in hand, and they need three points. No ifs, ands or buts. The team needs to regain a sense of urgency in its form before they're trailing by one or two goals, and it needs to listen to and support the rookie goalkeeper making the start tomorrow. Otherwise, the Union will be chasing the playoffs instead of chasing the top seed.
Projected starters, up-to-date injury reports and assorted match notes after the jump...
Philadelphia: MacMath; G. Farfan, Valdes, Califf (C), Williams; Mapp, Miglioranzi, Adu, Le Toux; Mwanga, Paunovic
New England: Reis; Tierney, Soares, Cochrane, Alston; Feilhaber, Phelan, Joseph, Boggs; Caraglio, Lekic
For Philadelphia, Levi Houapeu remains unavailable as he rehabs his left ankle and, of course, Faryd Mondragon is out with a right ring finger fracture. Brian Carroll is still considered "doubtful" with his right foot sprain, and Michael Farfan is listed as "questionable" due to a left knee contusion. Keon Daniel remains away from the club as he attends to Trinidad and Tobago national team duties.
For New England, Sainey Nyassi is unavailable thanks to a right knee MCL sprain. Kheli Dube and Stephen McCarthy are listed as "doubtful" due to whiplash and a left shoulder subluxation, respectively. Matt Reis, Milton Caraglio, Kevin Alston and Franco Correia are all considered "probable" despite left knee irritation, a left groin strain, left hamstring irritation and a left knee MCL sprain, respectively. Kenny Mensally will not be with the club tomorrow, as he serves a one-match red card suspension.
- Jorge Gonzalez is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In 65 career MLS matches, Gonzalez has called for an average of between 24 and 25 fouls per match, handed out an average of between three and four yellow cards a match, given a total of 22 red cards and has awarded a total of 18 penalty kicks.
- Danny Califf, Brian Carroll and Pat Phelan are all one yellow card away from receiving an automatic one-match disciplinary suspension for yellow card accumulation.
- Eleven of the Revs' 39 goals conceded in MLS this year have come in the final fifteen minutes of matches. So, once again, don't change the channel mid-way through the second half thinking the match is all but over if the Union are trailing or level.
- New England hasn't won a match this year in which it conceded first (0-9-2). They also have not won a match this year in which they are trailing at halftime (0-6-1).
- Sebastien Le Toux finally scored his first league goal in the run of play this year in Utah. Has the monkey finally been lifted from his shoulders, or will he remain snakebitten? Only one way to find out.
- The Philadelphia back line will be welcoming Carlos Valdes with open arms tomorrow night. Valdes is available to play in tomorrow's match after serving his suspension for yellow card accumulation.
- A minor and almost meaningless point, but 2010 team captain and current vice-captain Danny Califf will almost certainly be wearing the captain's armband in place of Faryd Mondragon tomorrow.
- It's Dietz & Watson dollar dog night tomorrow at PPL Park! That's gotta count for something, right?