Setting: Saturday, May 5 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash.; kickoff scheduled for 4:52 PM Eastern
Broadcast Information: NBC Sports Network (Arlo White, Kyle Martino) nationally, with coverage beginning at 4:30 PM Eastern / 97.3 KIRO-FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller) and La Gran D 99.3 KDDS-FM / MLS Live, Direct Kick (Canada only)
Seattle's Record: 5-1-1, 16 points (third in West)
Seattle's Last Match: W, 2-0 vs. LA
For the Seattle Perspective, Visit Sounder At Heart
Following a heart-wrenching defeat at home last weekend that saw the Philadelphia Union score a late equalizer, only to concede an even-later winner in stoppage time, the team has traveled back to the West Coast to take on Fredy Montero and the Seattle Sounders. Yes, it's finally time to call them Montero's Sounders again -- he finally scored his first goal of the season this past Wednesday in a 2-0 home victory over the LA Galaxy. The Sounders are off to their best start in their MLS history, and winners of three in a row and undefeated in four. They'll be without starting goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, however, who will miss a good couple of weeks with a right hip injury. It had been bothering him for a while, apparently, but he really tweaked it on Wednesday. Gspurning will be completely shut down for a week or so before beginning to build back strength on his right side. Though it would seem nearly impossible for anyone to try and fill the shoes of Kasey Keller, the Austrian national had been doing a heck of a job in his first MLS season, guiding the backline and allowing just three goals in seven matches. North Jersey native and Monmouth University graduate Bryan Meredith, who was drafted and promptly released by Seattle in 2011, and then re-signed this past September, will be making his first MLS start tomorrow against the Union, who have had middling success in their short history with goalies making their MLS debut. If you can believe it, tomorrow will be the first time in Seattle's MLS history that they will have to go with their backup keeper due to injury.
Philadelphia, on the other hand, are very well set between the pipes tomorrow with Zac MacMath. Despite the late loss, MacMath came up with numerous spectacular saves to keep the Quakes from winning in a rout. Philadelphia does need to be tighter defensively, since for obvious reasons MacMath can't exactly be expected to make stops when the opposition is outnumbering the defenders in and around the box, but the Chris Wondolowskis and even the Steven Lenharts of the world are going to get their chances and occasionally make plays that are nearly impossible to read or predict. The Union will have to deal with the aforementioned Montero, who might have a little extra push after finally getting that first goal off of his back, as well as the ever-crafty David Estrada and, of course, Eddie Johnson.
Johnson and the Union's Freddy Adu have traversed remarkably similar paths in their careers, entering MLS at young ages, only to end up bouncing around in Europe after unmeetable expectations for such young kids were not met. The two even played together for a short while in Greece in addition to on the U.S. men's national team. Johnson has had a successful return to MLS, and although Freddy Adu has taken longer to get re-accustomed to the league, he, too, has had a strong start to the season. Finally healthy (unlike during the latter part of his 2011 season with Philadelphia), Adu seems to be getting better and better every week, and with strong play around him from Michael Farfan, Gabriel Gomez, and increasingly from Keon Daniel, the Union's offensive play has slowly come into its own. Lionard Pajoy, the prized offseason acquisition, continues to be a disappointment. The pressure should be starting to mount on Pajoy, which in all likelihood won't exactly help the situation, but if he continues to struggle and not produce offensively, surely the team has to consider whether it wouldn't be better served putting Danny Mwanga or Josue Martinez up top and seeing if that ends up working better.
Projected starters, injury reports and assorted match notes after the jump...
Philadelphia: MacMath; Williams, Valdes, Califf, Gaddis; Carroll, Gomez; M. Farfan, Daniel; Adu, Pajoy
Seattle: Meredith; Gonzalez, Hurtado, Parke, Scott; Alonso; Rosales, Evans, Estrada; Montero, Johnson
For Philadelphia, Roger Torres (left MCL) and Krystian Witkowski (concussion) remain out. Brian Carroll is considered "doubtful" due to a right hamstring strain. Gabriel Farfan and Union manager Peter Nowak will both miss tomorrow's match due to suspension following the club's win at Chivas a few weeks ago. Farfan will also miss next week's match against the New York Red Bulls. John Hackworth will once again run things for the Union.
For Seattle, Josh Ford (right knee stress fracture), Andrew Weber (left ankle sprain), Michael Tetteh (left hamstring strain), Steve Zakuani (right leg) and Babayele Sodade (right knee ACL tear) are all unavailable. Alvaro Fernandez is listed as "doubtful" due to a right quad strain, while Patrick Ianni is "questionable" due to lower back pain. Mauro Rosales is "probable" despite a right foot contusion.
- Ricardo Salazar is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In 150 career MLS matches, Salazar has called an average of 27 fouls per match, given an average of between three and four yellow cards per match, handed out a total of 42 red cards, and has awarded a total of 57 penalty kicks.
- Meredith is certainly no stranger to his teammates and fully involved in club trainings, but keep on the lookout for communication issues early on between the keeper and his backline. As mentioned above, the Sounders are not used to playing in front of a backup keeper, at all. Meredith did, however, come in and play a clean 45 minutes on Wednesday after Gspurning was injured.
- The Sounders are 5-0-0 when they score first, and 0-1-0 when they concede first. Small sample sizes, particularly with the latter, but if that's not added incentive on top of a goalie making his first MLS start to shoot early and often...
- The Union are continuing to play in a rough couple of weeks scheduling-wise. Having already faced the Earthquakes, and facing the Sounders tomorrow, the Union then play the Red Bulls and after that will travel to take on FC Dallas. Oh, and the Schalke friendly is in between all of that.