Match #7 Preview: Philadelphia Union Vs. San Jose Earthquakes

CHESTER, PA - APRIL 30: Carlos Valdes #5 of the Philadelphia Union passes the ball around Chris Wondolowski #8 of the San Jose Earthquakes during the second half at PPL Park on April 30, 2011 in Chester, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Setting: Saturday, April 28 at PPL Park in Chester; kickoff scheduled for 7:06:30 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: CSN Philadelphia (JP Dellacamera, Bob Rigby), with coverage beginning at 6:30 PM with a pre-game show / CSN Bay Area (Jim Kozimor, Kelly Gray), KLIV 1590 AM (Gus Johnson -- yes, that Gus Johnson), KZSF 1370 AM (Carlos Cesar Rivera) in San Jose / MLS Live, Direct Kick (CSN Philadelphia feed)

San Jose's Record: 5-1-1, 16 points (first in West)

San Jose's Last Match: W, 3-1 vs. Real Salt Lake

Philadelphia vs. San Jose Last Season: 1-1-0 (San Jose 0 @ Philadelphia 1 on April 30; Philadelphia 0 @ San Jose 0 on July 9)

For the San Jose Perspective, Visit Quake, Rattle and Goal

Coming off their second win of the season, and their second win in a row, the Philadelphia Union finally have some momentum. And they're going to need it tomorrow night as they welcome in the Western Conference pace-setting San Jose Earthquakes, who come into PPL Park riding a five match unbeaten streak. The Quakes had a disappointing 2011, but what looks to be the beginning of another MVP-caliber season from Chris Wondolowski has led San Jose to an absolutely terrific start. Going into tomorrow's slate of matches, the Earthquakes are tied for the top spot in the West with Real Salt Lake, but have played two fewer matches than RSL. Their goals per match is second in the league behind the Red Bulls, and they've given up a grand total of five goals in their seven matches. That is success defined.

The big key for the Union is awfully obvious, and awfully difficult to achieve: shut down Wondolowski. He's got eight goals and an assist already, and if you do the math (you might not want to -- it's an amazing, yet painful statistic for Union fans), he personally has doubled the output of the entire Philadelphia side this season. He always seems to find open space behind the backline, and he seemingly never fails to finish his chances. What will make trying to stop the unstoppable force that is #8 an even more difficult challenge for the Union tomorrow is the continued shuffling of defenders. Gabriel Farfan will miss tomorrow's match and two additional matches for his studs-up slide last week at Chivas that garnered him a straight red from the match referee as well as a supplementary two match suspension and fine from MLS Commissioner Don Garber. Fortunately for the Union, centerback (and captain) Danny Califf should be ready to return to action. That leaves Raymon Gaddis, the rookie who has impressively filled Califf's shoes for the past two weeks, to shift over and fill Farfan's spot at leftback.

Last weekend at the Home Depot Center, the Union continued to show signs of an improving offensive game. Freddy Adu had another excellent outing, getting the match's lone goal, and Michael Farfan was once again showing flashes of brilliance, including his setup of Adu's tally. Lionard Pajoy, the striker with a good deal of the offensive weight on his shoulders, has not yet quite seemed to click. Whether it's learning the system, getting his feet wet in the league, or what, the Union need Pajoy to start becoming more integrated and involved. It's not all on Pajoy, as there have been times when he's made good runs only to have the midfield fail him with a poor ball, but he was brought in as someone they could count on to be an offensive threat every single match, and it's becoming high time that he start doing so. It's unclear at this point whether newcomer Kai Herdling, on loan from Hoffenheim, will see his first minutes with the team tomorrow night, though reports from training indicate that he's been practicing with the full team. It can be easy to forget with the dazzling Wondolowski how solid San Jose's been defensively, with Jon Busch providing the last line of defense between the pipes. Wondolowski's inevitably going to get his chances, and if he finishes, San Jose will really tighten the screws on the Union and make countering a challenge on its own.

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

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: MacMath; Gaddis, Valdes, Califf, Williams; Gomez, Carroll; Adu, M. Farfan; Mwanga, Pajoy

San Jose: Busch; Morrow, Hernandez, Opara, Beitashour; Dawkins, Moreno, Cronin, Baca; Stephenson, Wondolowski

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, Roger Torres (left knee/MCL) and Krystian Witkowski (concussion) remain out. Sheanon Williams is considered "questionable" due to a left knee MCL sprain. Danny Califf (left hamstring strain) and Chris Konopka (left wrist sprain) are listed as "probable" for tomorrow's match. Keon Daniel will be unavailable as he serves his automatic one-match disciplinary suspension for the red card received last week at Chivas. Gabriel Farfan will also be unavailable as he, too, serves an automatic one-match disciplinary suspension following his red card. He will also be unavailable for the team's following two matches as he serves an additional suspension given by MLS.

For San Jose, Victor Bernardez (left knee MCL sprain), Joey Gjertsen (right knee surgery), Alan Gordon (left hamstring strain), Cesar Diaz Pizarro (right hamstring strain), Shea Salinas (left clavicle fracture) and Tim Ward (soft tissue injury) are all unavailable. Ramiro Corrales is "doubtful" thanks to a right calf strain, while Ike Opara is "questionable" due to a right hamstring strain.

Of note:

  • Baldomero Toledo is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In 130 career MLS matches, Toledo has called an average of 25 fouls per match, given an average of between three and four yellow cards per match, handed out a total of 47 red cards and has awarded a total of 48 penalty kicks.
  • San Jose has an awfully quick turnaround to deal with. Following tomorrow's match, they'll fly back to San Jose and prepare for a Wednesday night match with D.C. United. It's an awfully cruel scheduling setup for the Quakes, and one can't help but wonder whether trying to preserve legs for Wednesday might force Frank Yallop to opt for a more conservative gameplan. Or whether some of San Jose's top-minute players might not play the full 90, depending on the circumstances of the match.
  • Steven Lenhart is one yellow card away, and Gabriel Gomez is two yellow cards away, from receiving an automatic one-match disciplinary suspension for yellow card accumulation.
  • The Quakes start well and end well. Three of their thirteen goals this season have come in the opening fifteen minutes of play, and another three have come in the final fifteen minutes of play.
  • In addition to the suspensions of Keon Daniel and Gabriel Farfan, Peter Nowak also received a suspension, though his was not due to a reckless challenge (maybe something of a surprise, given Nowak's temperament), but for leaving the technical area to get involved in a skirmish between a handful of Union and Chivas players. John Hackworth will run things for the next two matches, with Nowak barred from both the pitch and the locker room.
The Union face another tough test in the Western Conference-leading San Jose Earthquakes. They try to shut down Chris Wondolowski and continue their franchise-record shutout streak as they go for their third straight result. If you're heading down to PPL Park tomorrow night, enjoy the match, and if you're not, we hope you can join us here for our gamethread!
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