Match #27 Preview: Philadelphia Union Vs. Portland Timbers

PORTLAND, OR - MAY 06: Kalif Alhassan #11 of the Portland Timbers dribbles the ball against Michael Farfan #21of the Philadelphia Union on May 6, 2011 at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Setting: Saturday, September 10 at PPL Park in Chester; kickoff scheduled for 7:36:30 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: The Comcast Network (JP Dellacamera, Taylor Twellman, Bob Rigby), coverage beginning at 7:00 PM Eastern with a pre-game show / ROOT Sports Northwest (Glenn Davis, Robbie Earle), NewsRadio 101.1 KXL-FM (Andy McNamara) and La Pantera 940 KWBY-AM (Fernando Sobrevilla, Ricardo Rodriguez) in Portland / MLS Direct Kick, MatchDay Live (ROOT Sports Northwest feed)

Portland's Record: 9-12-5, sixth in West

Portland's Last Match: W, 1-0 vs. Chivas USA

Philadelphia vs. Portland This Season: 0-1-0 (Philadelphia 0 @ Portland 1 on May 6)

For the Portland Perspective, Visit Stumptown Footy

Philadelphia Union fans have had a little bit time to breathe and try and digest exactly what happened as the team took an incredible, come from behind 4-4 draw at home against the New England Revolution, but it still seems like no one is quite sure what they saw on Wednesday night. There were wheelbarrows full of poor defensive plays on both sides, but the feeling wasn't one of a high-paced "last shot wins" contest -- it was one of overall weirdness. The Union trailed 3-0 and 4-1, but they never seemed like they were truly out of the match, thanks to continued defensive breakdowns from New England and a Philadelphia side that smelled blood in the water after Roger Torres's goal and knew that they were not out of reach. It was the first time the team had scored more than four goals in an MLS match since May 28 in Toronto, and the first time that they had given up four goals in over eleven months. In the end, though, they only took a point from a critical home match in hand against the teams above them in the Eastern Conference, and they did it facing a team towards the very bottom of the Major League Soccer standings. In other words, New England giving up four goals -- even in the fashion that they did -- wasn't all that surprising or unexpected. Philadelphia, however, is supposed to be (and has to be) so much better than that.

Now in come the Portland Timbers, making their first ever visit to PPL Park. Thanks to a late-summer push, their playoff hopes are still well alive, sitting only three points out of a wild card spot with a match or so in hand against many of the teams above them in the standings. And as the Union play in their third match in eight nights, Portland is playing in its first MLS match since August 24, meaning that, like this past Saturday, a tired Philadelphia side will take on a well-rested opponent. The Revs jumped all over this opportunity, and instead of appearing rusty, took it to Philadelphia in the finishing department in the first half, although the overall run of play seemed to be in the Union's favor. Perhaps John Spencer's side will start out a bit rusty and in a bit of a tentative form, and if that's the case, the Union will need to take advantage. Whatever momentum they took out of Wednesday must be funneled into tomorrow night's match, or they'll continue to find themselves in an increasingly tight playoff picture.

Zac MacMath certainly didn't play poorly in his first-ever MLS start, and the four goals he allowed did not reflect his effort properly, but he'll continue to be the centerpiece of holding down the fort for the Union while Faryd Mondragon tries to race back from injury. He has to make sure his players are better organized and more aware of their surroundings as they try to shut down Jack Jewsbury, Kenny Cooper and Jorge Perlaza. And if the last couple of weeks are any indication, Sebastien Le Toux looks to be finally back on track -- he was all over the pitch against the Revs right from the opening whistle, and his penalty kick for Union goal number three and added time equalizer were obviously critical to the Union's comeback. Given these two teams' positioning in the standings and the Union's prolonged slide (which may have been halted on Wednesday), perhaps Le Toux can lead the team to three points in what is undoubtedly a 'must-win' match.

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

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: MacMath; G. Farfan, Valdes, Califf, Williams; Carroll; Le Toux, Adu, Mapp; Mwanga, Paunovic

Portland: Perkins; Chabala, Horst, Brunner, Palmer; Alhassan, Chara, Jewsbury, Zizzo; Perlaza, Cooper

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, Levi Houapeu is unavailable as he continues to rehab his left ankle, while of course Faryd Mondragon remains out from his right ring finger fracture. Brian Carroll is listed as "probable" despite his right foot contusion continuing to bother him.

For Portland, Adin Brown, Mamadou Danso, Kevin Goldthwaite, Eddie Johnson and Spencer Thompson are all unavailable due to a concussion, a right hamstring strain, a left knee ACL rupture, a concussion, and a right knee issue, respectively. Troy Perkins is considered "probable" despite right hip soreness.

Of note:

  • Chris Penso is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In nine career MLS matches, Penso has called for an average of between 23 and 24 fouls per match, handed out an average of just under four yellow cards per match, given a total of three red cards and has awarded a total of four penalty kicks.
  • Danny Califf, Brian Carroll, Mike Chabala and Rodney Wallace are all one yellow card away from receiving an automatic one-match disciplinary suspension for yellow card accumulation.
  • Portland has allowed ten of its 41 goals between minutes 61 and 75, and eleven of them in the final fifteen minutes of matches. Philadelphia has now scored 11 goals in the final fifteen minutes of matches.
  • The Timbers are 0-11-3 when conceding first, and 0-8-1 when trailing at halftime.
The Union hope to take a crucial three points and ease the pressure on their playoff spot a bit, while the Timbers look to enter the playoff picture and become only the third MLS expansion team to earn a postseason berth in their first season. Both teams truly need a win tomorrow night, and that should make for an exciting match. Hope you can join us for a gamethread!
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