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Match #31 Preview: Philadelphia Union Vs. New England Revolution

Two teams already eliminated from postseason contention meet at PPL Park. Philadelphia enters after an impressive road win, while New England is coming off a disappointing road defeat.

Drew Hallowell - Getty Images

Setting: Saturday, October 6 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 Eastern with a pre-game show, SportsRadio 610 WIP (Tony Limarzi, Peter Pappas) / CSN New England and 97.5 The Sports Hub (Brad Feldman, Jeff Causey) in New England / MLS Live, Direct Kick (CSN Philadelphia feed; Direct Kick blacked out in New England)

New England's Record: 7-16-8 (29 points, ninth in East)

New England's Last Match: L, 2-0 at Houston

Philadelphia vs. New England This Season: 1-0-1 (New England 1 @ Philadelphia 2 on July 29; Philadelphia 0 @ New England 0 on September 1)

For the New England Perspective, Visit The Bent Musket

Coming off arguably one of their more impressive wins of the season, a 3-1 road win against the Chicago Fire, the hottest team in the Eastern Conference and the most difficult to beat at home, the Philadelphia Union are back at PPL Park to host the New England Revolution. Unlike the last handful of opponents for Philadelphia, the Revs aren't a playoff hopeful that the Union can play as spoiler against, a role they've seemingly relished. Indeed, this will be one of the few times all season that the Union are playing a team below them in the standings. One could make the argument that this theoretically makes Philadelphia the favorite to take three points, but ... well, we know better than that at this point, don't we?

New England has but one win in its last fourteen (1-9-4). They're without top offensive players Lee Nguyen (five goals, two assists), and continue to be without Saer Sene (11 goals, three assists), as well as defensive regulars Stephen McCarthy and Chris Tierney. Honduran international Jerry Bengtson and teenager Diego Fagundez are expected to start up top. They probably deserved a little better than a 2-0 defeat in Houston, but no points are no points, and Jay Heaps was not particularly thrilled at his team's inability to finish, though to be fair injuries have certainly not helped New England. But the big hoopla around the Revs over the last week has to do with reports that the Kraft family is investigating a site in Revere, Massachusetts for a possible soccer-specific stadium. With the New York Red Bulls out of Giants Stadium, and the San Jose Earthquakes about to break land on a long-overdue stadium of their own, the Revs are second only to D.C. United in terms of awful stadium setups. Revere is hardly a perfect site, and a deal seems pretty unlikely. But when it comes right down to it, isn't it better to have a soccer-specific stadium in a not-perfect place than continuing to play in Gillette Stadium? It's a very similar situation to where the Red Bulls were a few years, and frankly, while Red Bull Arena is out of the way and hard to get to for some Red Bulls fans... having Red Bull Arena tops still being stuck at the Meadowlands any day of the week.

The Union seem to have had a weight lifted off of their collective shoulders since being officially eliminated from the playoffs. Their play has been markedly improved over the past couple of weeks, and they have two wins and a loss-that-should-be-a-tie to show for it. One could reasonably ask where this type of commitment has been over the past couple of months, but who knows. The team's midweek match in Chicago brought up an interesting storyline that had been present throughout much of the season but had disappeared since the end of summer, and that is the oddly inconsistent play of Zac MacMath. He'll make a dynamite save one minute, and give up a weak near post roller to Dominic Oduro the next. MacMath seems to have made a habit of cheating off the near post, and every once in a while an opposing player will pick up on that and take full advantage. Sound positioning is the key reason why MacMath is able to make some of his tremendous saves, so positioning also being a weakness for him presents an interesting conundrum for MacMath and Union goalkeeping coach Rob Vartughian to work on in the coming weeks and months. The Union will be without fullback Sheanon Williams due to yellow card accumulation suspension, so look for either Chris Albright or Gabriel Farfan to fill in on the backline.

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: MacMath; G. Farfan, Valdes, Okugo, Gaddis; Carroll, Lahoud; McInerney, Gomez, Hoppenot; Martinez

New England: Shuttleworth; Alston, Soares, Barnes, Purdie; Cardenas, Guy, Toja, Rowe; Fagundez, Bengtson

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, Bakary Soumare (right knee menisectomy recovery), Krystian Witkowski (concussion symptoms), and Danny Cruz (left big toe sesamoid stress fracture/right Achilles strain) are out. Freddy Adu (left quad strain) is "questionable". Gabriel Farfan (right ankle contusion/right hamstring strain) is "probable". As previously mentioned, Sheanon Williams is unavailable as he serves a one-match disciplinary suspension for yellow card accumulation.

For New England, Flo Lechner (right knee MCL sprain), Lee Nguyen (right shoulder surgery), Tyler Polak (right foot sprain), Saer Sene (left knee ACL surgery), Chris Tierney (left knee sprain/left hamstring strain), and Stephen McCarthy (concussion-like symptoms) are all unavailable. Clyde Simms (right calf strain) is "questionable". Sainey Nyassi (concussion) is "probable".

Of note:

  • Jorge Gonzalez is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In 87 career MLS matches, Gonzalez has called an average of 25.1 fouls per match, handed out an average of 3.3 yellow cards per match, given a total of 26 red cards, and has awarded a total of 23 penalty kicks.
  • Gabriel Gomez and Michael Lahoud are both one yellow card away from receiving an automatic one-match disciplinary suspension for yellow card accumulation.
  • The Revs haven't won on the road since March 31, when they defeated the Galaxy 3-1 in their only road victory of the season to date.
  • The Revs have scored 10 of their 37 goals in the first fifteen minutes of matches. They've scored 19 of their 37 in the first thirty minutes of matches. If you shut 'em down early, there's a decent chance you'll keep them shut down.
  • The Revs have been shutout 11 times this season, matching a club record set in 2000.
  • Philadelphia, Toronto, and Chivas USA are the only teams in MLS with a losing home record this season. Philadelphia (6-7-2) has the opportunity tomorrow and in their season finale against New York to fix that.
  • The Revs have still never beaten the Union in their history.
If you're heading down to PPL Park tomorrow evening, enjoy the match! If not, we hope you can join us here tomorrow night for a gamethread.