Setting: Saturday, March 31 at PPL Park in Chester; kickoff scheduled for 4:06:30 PM Eastern
Broadcast Information: 6abc (JP Dellacamera, Bob Rigby, Keith Russell), with coverage beginning at 3:30 PM Eastern with a pre-game show and concluding into Action News at 6 PM Eastern / Sportsnet Pacific (Craig McEwen, Paul Dolan) and TEAM 1040 CKST-AM (Peter Schaad, David Norman) in Vancouver / MLS Direct Kick, MLS Live (6abc feed)
Vancouver's Record: 2-0-1, 7 points (first in West)
Vancouver's Last Match: T, 0-0 at DC
Philadelphia vs. Vancouver Last Season: 1-1-0 (Vancouver 0 @ Philadelphia 1 on March 26; Philadelphia 0 @ Vancouver 1 on June 18)
For the Vancouver Perspective, Visit Eighty Six Forever
It's hard to know where to start with this match. Philadelphia Union fans have had tomorrow circled on their calendars and on their schedules since January 31, when the team shipped Sebastien Le Toux to the Vancouver Whitecaps for allocation money. So there's been a particular focus on tomorrow, the teams' only meeting of the regular season, especially since it's so early in the season. But the focus has grown incrementally even more over the last three weeks, as the Union dropped each of their first three matches. They've yet to show the decent offensive potential the roster shows on paper, scoring just two goals in those three matches. And, well, that was the area where Le Toux was a little helpful, after all.
Meanwhile, a Vancouver side that never really got going in their first season in MLS seems to be figuring things out, getting results in their first three matches, including their first-ever MLS road victory in Carson against Chivas USA. In fact, they're the only MLS team that has yet to concede a goal. They'll be without Eric Hassli, their other French striker, whose red card helped Philadelphia to their 1-0 win early last year, but the Whitecaps have already been getting it done by committee. Their three goals this season have come from three different players, and the large force that is Eric Hassli only has one assist from those. So the offensive threat doesn't disappear with Hassli -- Camilo, Le Toux, and Atiba Harris (or whomever fills in for Hassli) can certainly keep Philadelphia's backline busy. Despite their positive start though, folks in Vancouver are concerned that their offense hasn't really clicked together yet either. They haven't scored a goal in the run of play since Camilo tallied against Montreal in their opening match.
The Whitecaps are shorthanded defensively as well, losing Alain Rochat to a left knee sprain. That should open up a spot for Jordan Harvey, who, like Le Toux, the Union sent to Vancouver for allocation money. Philadelphia will likely try to build off of play down the wings, where Michael Farfan and Sheanon Williams have found some of the only consistently open avenues for attack. The dual focuses of tomorrow's match might be a little overbearing in the opening minutes of the match (though Peter Nowak has promised that his side will be laser focused from first kick), and you wonder whether that might benefit the ten Whitecaps players who are essentially being totally ignored, but the front office and the players have caused the media attention and these ruckuses themselves.
Projected starters, injury reports and assorted notes after the jump...
Philadelphia: MacMath; Lopez, Valdes, Califf, Williams; Gomez; Daniel, Carroll, M. Farfan; Mwanga, Pajoy
Vancouver: Cannon; Lee, DeMerit, Bonjour, Harvey; Thorrington, Davidson, Watson, Le Toux; Camilo, Harris
For the Union, Krystian Witkowski is out with a concussion, and likely for a decent period of time. Peter Nowak insists that the club will be very cautious with the rookie and make sure that he's fully recovered before returning as a matchday option. Chris Albright is listed as "probable" as he manages a left groin strain.
For Vancouver, Etienne Barbara, Darren Mattocks, Michael Nanchoff, Alain Rochat and Eric Hassli are all unavailable, due to a groin strain, a right shoulder burn (there's something you don't see everyday), a left heel contusion, a left knee sprain, and an ankle issue, respectively. Goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre is listed by the team as "questionable" as he recovers from right knee surgery, and Camilo is "probable" despite a right quad strain. Additionally, Bryce Alderson and Russell Teibert are off on Canadian national team duties as they try to help the U-23 team qualify for the Olympics.
- Elias Bazakos is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In 20 career MLS matches, Bazakos has called an average of about 26 fouls per match, given an average of between two and three yellow cards per match, handed out a total of five red cards, and has awarded a total of two penalty kicks.
- Jordan Harvey was, and still is, a fan favorite in Philadelphia. If he gets a starting nod, have to imagine that he'll also receive a strong reception from the crowd at PPL Park.
- The Whitecaps are trying to take a share in the MLS record for consecutive clean sheets to start an MLS season, with their fourth. The Red Bulls started the 2007 season with four shutouts, conceding their first goal in their fifth match. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about their strong defensive start is that they gave up the most goals in the Western Conference last season and never had two shutouts in a row, let alone the three they've taken in three matches to open 2012.