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Match #20 Preview: Philadelphia Union Vs. Colorado Rapids

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Setting: Friday, July 29 at PPL Park in Chester; kickoff scheduled for 7:36:30 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: Soccer Night in America on Fox Soccer (J.P. Dellacamera, Kyle Martino, Brian Dunseth) nationally, with coverage beginning at 7:00 PM Eastern with a pre-game show and concluding with a post-game show / Fox Deportes nationally in Spanish

Colorado's Record: 7-6-10, fifth in West

Colorado's Last Match: T, 2-2 vs. New England

Philadelphia vs. Colorado This Season: 0-0-1 (Philadelphia 1 @ Colorado 1 on June 4)

For the Colorado Perspective, Visit Burgundy Wave

With "international week" a rousing success, and the All-Star Game behind them, the Philadelphia Union begin their unofficial second half of the season tomorrow night in Chester. MLS action returns to PPL Park for the first time since June 25 as the Union welcome in defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids. who are having another solid season as they attempt to repeat as champions. The Rapids are struggling with injuries, particularly the left Achilles tear that has ended Conor Casey's season, but that hasn't deterred them from picking up two wins and two draws in their last five matches.

While Gary Smith's side did concede a 90th minute equalizer to New England at home last week through a Shalrie Joseph penalty kick, they do come in on a bit of a roll, having absolutely destroyed the New York Red Bulls on top of Sanna Nyassi's superb performance that saw him net a hat trick and an assist. (I was in New York when that game took place and was able to watch it on TV -- it was truly no contest.) While Nyassi can hardly be expected to turn in efforts like that on a weekly basis, it serves as further proof that the Rapids do have the firepower on their roster to handle the loss of Casey, who was just starting to round into form.

If Philadelphia can continue their form from their matches against Everton and Real Madrid, though, earning a result tomorrow ought to be nearly a given. Those two matches proved that, if nothing else, Piotr Nowak has created a side with attitude that is damn near indestructible. Regardless of whether All-Star Faryd Mondragon is in net or (former) third-string 'keeper Thorne Holder, or whether it's former league MVP Carlos Ruiz leading the attack or 17-year old academy player Christian Hernandez, they will play the same way. Right now, it looks as though it would take a truly fluke series of events, or a truly special performance, for this Union team to be taken apart defensively. And if they can just put the finishing touches on one or two or three of the chances that they work so hard to create, the good times will continue to roll.

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

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: Mondragon; G. Farfan, Valdes, Califf, Williams; Mapp, Carroll, Nakazawa, Le Toux; Mwanga, Ruiz

Colorado: Pickens; Moore, Palguta, Wynne, Kimura; Larentowicz, Mastroeni; Thompson, Nyassi, Cummings; Folan

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, Levi Houapeu remains unavailable with a left ankle strain, while Veljko Paunovic is considered "probable" despite his left hip strain.

For Colorado, Casey is, of course, unavailable with that left Achilles tear. Matt Pickens, Brian Mullan, Anthony Wallace, Omar Cummings, Jamie Smith and Macoumba Kandji are all listed as "probable" with a right groin strain, lower back spasms, a right quad sprain, a right ankle sprain, a right hamstring sprain and recovery from a left knee ACL tear, respectively.

Of note:

  • Tomorrow's match referee is listed as Jorge Gonzalez. In 64 career MLS matches, he has called an average of 24.5 fouls per match, handed out an average of between three and four yellow cards per match, given 21 red cards, and has called for 18 penalty kicks.
  • It's been a long road to recovery for Kandji, who was injured while causing the Rapids' MLS Cup-winning own goal last year. Full congratulations to him for making it back, regardless of whether or not he sees minutes tomorrow.
  • If Carlos Valdes receives a yellow card in tomorrow's match, he will receive an automatic one-match disciplinary suspension for yellow card accumulation.
  • Philadelphia knows all too well that a groin strain can be a very annoying issue for a goalkeeper, having watched Faryd Mondragon work through one earlier in the season. Pickens is expected to make the start tomorrow, but if he's unable to go at kickoff, North Jersey-native Ian Joyce would be called upon. Joyce has started one MLS match in his career, going the full 90 in a shutout effort last August as the Rapids topped Houston 3-0.
  • One kind of has to wonder whether Omar Cummings will be at 100% mentally and physically tomorrow. Already dealing with an ankle sprain, Cummings started in last night's All-Star Game, playing the entire first half. Cummings probably won't be a full speed mentally or physically, which will help Philadelphia in trying to contain him and the rest of the Rapids. It's certainly hard to anticipate him playing the entire match.
Philadelphia returns to MLS regular season action, hoping the unofficial second half of their season goes much like their first half, while Colorado looks to continue to keep pace in the West in the hopes of sneaking into the postseason. Hope you can join us tomorrow night for a gamethread!