Match #2 Preview: Philadelphia Union Vs. Colorado Rapids

CHESTER, PA- JULY 29: Matt Pickens #18 of the Colorado Rapids makes a save at the end of extra time during the game against the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park on July 29, 2011 in Chester, Pennsylvania. The Rapids won 2-1. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Setting: Sunday, March 18 at PPL Park in Chester; kickoff scheduled for 4:21:00 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: NBC Sports Network (Arlo White, Kyle Martino) nationally with coverage beginning at 4:00 PM Eastern / Mile High Sports Radio KCKK 1510 AM/93.7 FM (Todd Romero, Marcelo Balboa) and ESPN Deportes 87.7 FM KXDP (Esdrel Peinado) in Colorado / MLS Live in Canada only

Colorado's Record: 1-0-0, 3 points (third in West)

Colorado's Last Match: W, 2-0 vs. Columbus

Philadelphia vs. Colorado Last Season: 0-1-1 (Philadelphia 1 @ Colorado 1 on June 4; Colorado 2 @ Philadelphia 1 on July 29)

For the Colorado Perspective, Visit Burgundy Wave

After a disappointing season opener out west, the Philadelphia Union return to Chester to host their 2012 home opener against the Colorado Rapids. The Rapids put together an impressive 2-0 victory in their home opener last week against the Columbus Crew, and are hoping a quick start can give them steady positioning to work from for the rest of the season in the incredibly tight Western Conference. Philadelphia, on the other hand, is looking to rebound after being overpowered by the Portland Timbers. Newcomers Gabriel Gomez, Josue Martinez, and Lionard Pajoy had strong performances, while Porfirio Lopez probably had one he'd like to forget, though all four exhibited signs that chemistry with teammates and internalization of Peter Nowak's system was still a work in progress. Passes didn't end up in the paths of teammates, and positioning had a tendency to be jumbled throughout much of the night for all four. Those fixes will come in due time, and probably sooner rather than later since all four are expected to get regular minutes.

Rookie goalkeeper Zac MacMath, despite the final score, had a strong performance. Yes, Portland's first goal should have never gone in (many Union fans undoubtedly had flashbacks to 2010), but it's hard to fault MacMath on Portland's other two goals, and MacMath continued to fight, remaining awfully aggressive throughout the full 90 minutes. He challenged for every single ball he believed he could get to, coming off of his line regularly, and his judgment was superb. Put another way, Portland could have very easily netted four or five or six goals were it not for MacMath. He was under pressure almost all night with the Union defense, the team's backbone last season, having a mediocre night at best against a powerful Timbers offensive display. Portland was able to bend and bend the Union defensively, and then bend them some more. To their credit, the Union rarely broke, but they were still bent pretty badly by full time. The team hasn't seemed to put together the pieces offensively yet, either, showing only a handful of promising buildups while not converting on any counterattack chances and getting their lone goal from a lucky own goal on the part of the Timbers.

Despite Conor Casey being unavailable as he finishes his recovery from his Achilles tear, the Rapids have put together the pieces on their end, and the focus for Philadelphia rests on Omar Cummings and Brian Mullan. Tony Cascio, the 14th overall pick in this year's SuperDraft, is making an immediate impact with the team. Cascio made his MLS debut as a starter, and is expected to get the start once again against the Union, while offseason acquisition Jaime Castrillon proved his worth in midfield and with Pablo Mastroeni will be a worthy opponent for Gomez and Brian Carroll in trying to control the middle of the back. Their backline is contributing as well, with Kosuke Kimura being involved in both of their goals last weekend.

Projected starters, injury reports and assorted notes after the jump...

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: MacMath; Lopez, Valdes, Califf, Williams; Gomez, Carroll; Torres, M. Farfan; Mwanga, Pajoy

Colorado: Pickens; Zapata, Wynne, Moore, Kimura; Larentowicz; Castrillon, Mastroeni; Cascio, Cummings, Mullan

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, Gabriel Farfan is listed as doubtful due to a right quad strain, while Chris Albright is considered questionable as he continues to deal with a left groin strain. Freddy Adu and Amobi Okugo are away from the club for U.S. U-23 national team duties.

For Colorado, Conor Casey (left Achilles tear), Jamie Smith (right ACL tear), and Anthony Wallace (left Achilles tear) are unavailable Pablo Mastroeni (head contusion) are listed as probable. Hunter Freeman did not travel with the team to Philadelphia after a right ankle arthroscopy.

Of note:

  • Mark Geiger is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In 89 career MLS matches, Geiger has called between 26 and 27 fouls per match, given an average of just under four yellow cards per match, handed out a total of 16 red cards and has awarded a total of 30 penalty kicks.
  • Gotta figure that MacMath getting a clean first touch early in the match will help him settle any nerves he may have.
  • Porfirio Lopez's struggles seemed to come at least in part from the rain-soaked artificial surface at JELD-WEN Field. Perhaps he's inexperienced playing on turf, because he seemed unable to control his slides on multiple occasions. (There was one sequence where a backtracking Lopez literally skidded about fifteen yards and out of camera.) The natural grass in Chester should help him rebound.
  • The Rapids gave up five goals off of corners last season (the Union gave up just one), so if the Union are able to build offensive pressure and start winning corner kicks, they could prove to be dangerous.
  • If you weren't able to tune in to last Sunday's inaugural MLS telecast on the NBC Sports Network, don't worry about this being Fox Soccer all over again. The production quality was outstanding, and it's only going to get better.
The Union look for their first result of the season, while the Rapids hope to spoil Philadelphia's home opener. In four regular season matches between the two, the Union have yet to register a win, and this will be their only chance of the regular season. If you're heading down to PPL Park, enjoy the match, and if you're going to be watching on TV, we hope you can join us for our gamethread!
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