While there has been many up and downs to the 2013 season for the Union, however, playing the Western Conference has not been one of the valleys. As they head to Buck Shaw Stadium for the last meeting with a Western Conference foe, the Union have only lost once to teams from that conference. The lone loss was to the LA Galaxy, a team that just put a beatdown on the Earthquakes. In terms of the Union's history with the Earthquakes, there has only been 1 win in previous meetings, and only a single point at Buck Shaw. Both of those positives came back in 2011 with a 1-0 home win and a 0-0 draw on the road. Out of the 5 games the two sides have played, there have only been 8 goals scored and every game has been decided by a single goal, except for the single draw...when no goals were scored. Heading in to Sunday's matchup the teams are sitting in very different positions in their respective leagues. The Union are just 3 points out of the top spot in the East, but also 2 points from sitting on the outside of the playoff picture.
Speaking of sitting outside the playoff picture, San Jose see their playoff chances growing dimmer and dimmer as the season is heading to the close. Now 5 points behind the 5th and final playoff spot the Earthquakes can not afford to drop points at this stage in the season. When picking the starting lineups this week Philadelphia will again be without Amobi Okugo who is still listed as suspended by the league after his second yellow against New England saw him earn a red two weeks ago. Hackworth does have better news in terms of injury news as only Ray Gaddis (Right Ankle Sprain) and Chris Konopka (Left Knee Sprain) are listed as questionable, but should both be healthy for this weekend. Michael Lahoud will also miss out as he heads to Sierra Leone for a chance to earn his first international appearance. San Jose's injury concerns are a bit lengthier than the Union's (note: the MLS injury report has not been updated since August 23rd). Nana Attakora (Concussion Related Symptoms), Mehdai Ballouchy (Right ACL Tear), Ty Harden (Right Hip Surgery), Tommy Muller (Lower Back Spasms), and Marcus Tracy (Right Knee Inflammation) all are still listed as being out for the week. Add Sam Garza (Right Ankle Sprain), Mike Fucito (Right Ankle Fracture), and Shea Salinas (Left Hamstring Strain) as questionable and Victor Bernardez and Marvin Chavez who will be representing Honduras in CONCACAF qualifying. There are a lot of holes in the San Jose roster, but they did not have any players called up for the USMNT this round.
With all of that in mind, how with the Union line up? It's pretty clear that MacMath will be the one in goal. If he wasn't benched after giving up 5 in New England, he won't get benched after a clean sheet. In front of him will be the same makeshift back line as the Montreal game. Despite the clean sheet, this defensive unit is not keeping their job because of a job well done, but as the only defenders left on the roster (Sorry I do not count Chris Albright as an active member of the squad). Gaddis and Fabinho will feature on either side of Williams and Parke. Jumping over the midfield for now, Conor Casey and Jack McInerney are highly likely choices for starters. While Casey is playing very well right now, Jack has been ice cold. The only remedy for curing McInerney's goalless streak is more playing time. Keep getting him the ball and he will find his rhythm again. That is exactly what the Union needs heading down the stretch. Returning to the midfield, we find the only real questions as to starters. Actually, let me take that back, we find the only question as to starters. You can count on LeToux, Cruz, and Carroll being in the squad. The only question will be the second central midfielder. Keon Daniel has continued to be handed the spot next to Carroll, but Kleberson showed his ability off the bench in pressing the attack forward last week. Don't forget about the missing man Roger Torres (come on, you thought we'd get through a Union article without a Torres mention?) and the creativity he can add to the field. I could continue with my rant on the lack of accountability as the same line up is picked week in and week out, but I will save that for another day.
This weekend is about the Union getting back to winning ways and beating a team they should. The Union have been teetering on a razors edge between keeping up with the biggest teams in the conference and falling into the fray between the playoff spots and the chasers.
Prediction: Union 3-1 San Jose - Jack gets back on track, but Casey gets the brace.