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Match #13 Preview: Philadelphia Union vs. Real Salt Lake

SANDY, UT-MAY 8: Nick Zimmerman #23 of Philadelphia Union kicks Tony Beltran #2 of Real Salt Lake during the second half of an MLS soccer game in Rio Tinto Stadium May 8, 2010 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SANDY, UT-MAY 8: Nick Zimmerman #23 of Philadelphia Union kicks Tony Beltran #2 of Real Salt Lake during the second half of an MLS soccer game in Rio Tinto Stadium May 8, 2010 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
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Setting: Saturday, June 11 at PPL Park in Chester; kickoff scheduled for 4:06:30 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: 6abc HD (J.P. Dellacamera, Taylor Twellman, Bob Rigby), with coverage beginning at 3:30 PM Eastern with a pre-game show and heading into Action News at 6 PM Eastern / KMYU (David James, Kenny Kutler), KALL-AM ESPN 700, Juan 106.1 KBMG-FM/ESPN Deportes 1600 KEPN-AM (Nelson Moran, Fernando Hortal) in Salt Lake City / MLS Direct Kick, MatchDay Live (6abc feed)

RSL's Record: 6-3-2, fourth in West

RSL's Last Match: L, 2-1 at Columbus

Philadelphia vs. RSL Last Season: 0-1-1 (Philadelphia 0 @ RSL 3 on May 8; RSL 1 @ Philadelphia 1 on August 11)

For the RSL Perspective, Visit RSL Soapbox

When the Philadelphia Union got the first copies of their 2011 regular season schedule, they probably circled tomorrow's date on their calendars. As the season approached, and the team they are facing tomorrow valiantly strode towards the CONCACAF Champions League Finals, they probably circled the date with a second color. And now, as that same team travels to the Delaware Valley, depleted and exhausted, looking like humans and not soccer playing robots for the first time in months ... well ... the Union probably aren't sure what to think.

This Real Salt Lake club is about as formidable opponent as has ever existed over the sixteen seasons of Major League Soccer play. Jason Kreis has imparted on this side an aura of impenetrability that only those Philadelphia fans who are old enough to have watched Fred Shero's Broad Street Bullies can truly understand. But Kreis's side looks vulnerable right now. After starting the MLS regular season unbeaten through eight matches, the club suffered heartbreak at home versus Monterrey in the second leg of the aforementioned Finals series. They've since suffered the loss of Javier Morales to injury, and are in the last part of three matches in seven days, having defeated Vancouver at home last Saturday, and suffered a defeat at Columbus this past Wednesday. In short, they don't quite look like the Real Salt Lake we've become accustomed to anymore.

That doesn't mean that this will be an easy ninety minutes or so for the Union tomorrow -- even 75% of greatness is still pretty darn good. Don't expect RSL to come out and sit back; they plan to win tomorrow. Their backline will step forward when necessary, and Jean Alexandre and Fabian Espindola can burn you up front -- and don't expect to get anything but a gritty, ugly ball past Nick Rimando in the run of play. If the Union want to prove to the rest of the league that they are not just on an early season hot streak, but indeed, intend to compete for MLS Cup come November, well, three points tomorrow would go a long way.

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

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: Mondragon (C); Harvey, Valdes, Califf, Williams; G. Farfan, Carroll, Miglioranzi, Nakazawa; Mwanga, Le Toux

Real Salt Lake: Rimando; Wingert, Borchers, Olave, Beltran; Warner, Gonzalez, Grabavoy, Beckerman; Alexandre, Espindola

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, Amobi Okugo remains unavailable as he continues to recover from his left ankle sprain, while Justin Mapp is considered "questionable" after he re-tweaked his right groin last week in Colorado. Michael Farfan and Stefani Miglioranzi are both deemed "probable" despite right groin strains. Carlos Ruiz continues to be away with the Guatemalan national team.

For Real Salt Lake, Javier Morales of course is still out, rehabbing his left ankle. Robbie Russell is considered "probable" despite a left groin strain. Alvaro Saborio, Arturo Alvarez and Will Johnson are also away for various national team duties.

Of note:

  • Jorge Gonzalez is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In 60 career MLS matches, he's called an average of 24.5 fouls per match, handed out a little over three yellow cards per match, given out a total of 18 red cards, and has called for a total of 16 penalty kicks.
  • Danny Mwanga will receive a one-game disciplinary suspension for reckless play should he be given a yellow card tomorrow.
  • Real Salt Lake has allowed four of its six goals in MLS in the last fifteen minutes or so of matches. So if you're the Union, and you're trailing late in tomorrow's match, stay calm, and know that there's some reason for optimism.
  • Tomorrow is Action News day at PPL Park, apparently -- how convenient, considering that tomorrow's match is on 6abc. If you're going to the match tomorrow, and have always wanted to meet Jamie Apody, Keith Russell, Brian Taff, Shirleen Allicot and David Murphy... well, here's your chance. They'll be at the Toyota Plaza from 2-3:30 or so. Sadly, it appears that there will be no Jim Gardner.
Will the Union gain a statement result against the wary Real Salt Lake? Ought to be a great matchup, in front of another large crowd at PPL Park tomorrow afternoon. If you're going, enjoy, and remember to bring your rain gear -- there's a good chance of some storms tomorrow afternoon. If you're not heading to Chester, hope you can join us for a gamethread!