Setting: Saturday, October 27 at PPL Park in Chester; kickoff scheduled for 1:52 PM Eastern
Broadcast Information: NBC (Arlo White, Kyle Martino, Russ Thaler) nationally, with coverage beginning at 1:30 PM Eastern / SportsRadio 610 WIP (Tony Limarzi, Peter Pappas) in Philadelphia / 93.1 WPAT-FM (Robert Sierra, Nelson Rubio, Marvin Sandoval) in New York / MLS Live (Canada only)
New York's Record: 15-9-9 (54 points, fourth in East)
New York's Last Match: T, 0-0 vs. Sporting KC
For the New York Perspective, Visit Once A Metro
The 2012 season for the Philadelphia Union has finally reached its end: the team will play its final match of the season tomorrow afternoon against rivals New York Red Bulls. The Union are presented with an opportunity to end a disappointing season on a positive note by hosting the team that their fans perhaps dislike the most. The Red Bulls, on the other hand, are playing for more than pride. They will continue to play past tomorrow afternoon, and with final seeding still up in the air, New York is hoping that a victory can send them into a top-3 seed so they don't have to play in the wildcard play-in match. A New York win coupled with a D.C. win or draw against Chicago would do the trick.
The Red Bulls have had a somewhat inconsistent season, particularly in the last couple of months (2-2-4 in their last eight matches), however they have been buoyed in the standings by a strong start. New York won eight of their first twelve matches (8-2-2), but have only won seven of the following 23 matches. They did play a strong 90 minutes last week at home against Sporting Kansas City, though, and were probably slightly unlucky to end up with a scoreless draw. What looked like a sure-fire MLS Cup contender at the mid-point of the season doesn't look quite as strong right now, though it would seem on paper to be very hard to bet against a roster with names like Henry, Cooper, Cahill, and Marquez. Oh, and some guy named Sebastien Le Toux, too. Not to mention the upheaval that has been caused by the revelation that team manager Hans Backe won't be returning next season. Every player in the locker room has insisted that the team's lack of flashiness (despite the flashy names) on the pitch has nothing to do with the off-the-pitch stuff, that they are able to put all of it aside, but unfortunately it's never that easy.
Turning to the Union, it's been a very long 7 1/2 months for them. In fact, you could even say that the tone of this season was set nearly nine months ago, when Philadelphia traded Le Toux to Vancouver. Between a coaching change, disgruntling player transactions, the odd situation of Freddy Adu (who seems to be on his way out), and all-around poor play ... all told, it's not what Union fans were hoping for after the team made the playoffs last season. That's not to say there haven't been some positives. The team has been better under John Hackworth, although outside of a handful of performances at the beginning of the Hackworth era, they haven't necessarily been good, let alone great. Reports from inside the locker room have suggested a much higher player morale under Hackworth, which in and of itself is a huge plus. Jack McInerney has re-emerged after being buried in the depth chart for the last year and a half, Antoine Hoppenot seems to make things happen just about every time he's brought in off the bench, Michael Farfan has become a key offensive contributor out of midfield, and Amobi Okugo has really proven himself at central defense. Zac MacMath has had highs and lows as well in his first season as #1 on the depth chart, at times (like this past Wednesday in Kansas City) making highlight-reel saves, and at other times letting in relatively weak goals due to poor positioning or poor awareness. There seem to always be vague rumblings around the Union that CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz is looking to open up the purse strings a little bit and make a high-profile acquisition, but whether that will finally happen this offseason remains to be seen.
Philadelphia: MacMath; Lahoud, Valdes, Okugo, Gaddis; Gomez, Carroll; Daniel, M. Farfan, Cruz; McInerney
New York: Robles; Pearce, Marquez, Holgersson, Lade; McCarty, Cahill, Tainio, Solli; Henry, Cooper
For Philadelphia, Bakary Soumare (right knee menisectomy recovery) is out. Sheanon Williams (left ankle peroneal/Achilles strain) and Gabriel Farfan (right ankle stress reaction) is "doubtful". Greg Jordan (right ankle strain), Danny Cruz (left big toe sesamoid stress fracture), and Carlos Valdes (low back contusion) are "probable".
- Chris Penso is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In 31 career MLS matches, Penso has called an average of 22.3 fouls per match, given an average of 2.8 yellow cards per match, handed out a total of seven red cards, and has awarded a total of eleven penalty kicks.
- Philadelphia is 7-7-2 at home this season. The Red Bulls are 8-4-4 on the road this season.
- Philadelphia has committed 453 fouls this season, third-most in the league behind Kansas City (456) and Vancouver (473).
- One can't help but wonder whether Jimmy McLaughlin, who along with fellow homegrown-player Cristhian Hernandez, was on the traveling roster to Kansas City, will once again be among John Hackworth's first-choice substitutes tomorrow. It was about time that Hackworth gave a shot to a truly untested player on his roster.