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Match #25 Preview: Philadelphia Union At New England Revolution

CHESTER, PA- SEPTEMBER 07: Freddy Adu #11 of the Philadelphia Union fights for the ball during the game against the New England Revolution at PPL Park on September 7, 2011 in Chester, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
CHESTER, PA- SEPTEMBER 07: Freddy Adu #11 of the Philadelphia Union fights for the ball during the game against the New England Revolution at PPL Park on September 7, 2011 in Chester, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
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Setting: Saturday, September 1 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.; kickoff scheduled for 7:36:30 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia (JP Dellacamera, Bob Rigby), with coverage beginning at 7:00 PM Eastern with a pre-game show / Comcast SportsNet New England and The Sports Hub 98.5 WBZ-FM (Brad Feldman, Jeff Causey, Damon Amendolara) in New England / MLS Live, Direct Kick (CSN New England feed)

New England's Record: 6-14-6, (24 points; ninth in East)

New England's Last Match: T, 3-3 vs. Chivas USA

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

For the New England Perspective, Visit The Bent Musket

The playoff push is over. Team manager John Hackworth said as much following the team's disastrous 2-1 loss at home to the Columbus Crew this past Wednesday. Truthfully, it's been over since mid-July -- or maybe it never even started in the first place. The team made an unexpectedly strong push following the removal of Peter Nowak and promotion of John Hackworth from assistant coach to interim manager, and came very close for a very short period of time to becoming a part of the race for the Eastern Conference wildcard seeds. But, eventually, math catches up to you. They were in too deep of a hole, too late into the season, to pull themselves out. The talent and consistency, frankly, was never there either. A coaching change cannot immediately and permanently fix either of those things, even if team morale jumped to off-the-chart levels due to a combination of disliking Nowak and liking the affable Hackworth. The Union's sputtering over the last month is proof of that. Now, with any last wisps of standings pressure off the team's shoulders, and an upset fanbase, Hackworth has had the interim title removed. He has the rest of this season and all of the upcoming offseason and preseason to fully mold the team the way he wants, and figure out who he wants to stay in Philadelphia and who he doesn't want to bring back.

These last ten matches aren't going to be about the other team as much anymore, at least from a Union perspective. What the other team brings to the table isn't as important at this point. What's more important is that Hackworth now has the freedom to make broad changes from week to week, if he wishes. He now has the freedom to give minutes to homegrown players Zach Pfeffer, Jimmy McLaughlin, and Cristhian Hernandez, or to rookie Chandler Hoffman. This is the time for experimentation. You're still playing against true MLS first-team competition, but the results don't quite matter as much. You can be comfortable putting relatively unused players into the side, or maybe try them out in a new position. Maybe they'll have a poor performance and cost the team a goal or a result, or maybe someone will emerge as a useful cog much like Amobi Okugo, the midfielder who was thrown into central defense out of necessity, where he has thrived. Maybe Porfirio Lopez will get the chance to prove that he's a better fit for the Union than his first impressions on the pitch would suggest. Is a 4-3-3 really the most effective formation for the Union's talent? Can Freddy Adu finally find a role on this team? You get the idea. One would imagine that Hackworth will use these final ten matches to take full stock of what his roster has, and what it doesn't have, in preparation for a busy offseason.

The Revolution have not had a terrific season either. Like the Union, their last match is an indication which way they're trending. They went up 3-0 on Chivas USA at home after just 21 minutes, only to have former Revolution star Shalrie Joseph score two and Miller Bolaños score the third as Chivas rallied to get a result. They've had their fair share of injuries, as every team has, but the Revs have simply struggled -- especially recently. They are winless in nine (0-7-2), with their last win coming back on July 8 against the visiting New York Red Bulls. Offensively, you're looking at two players: Saer Sene, who's had a terrific first MLS season (11 goals, 3 assists) after coming over from Europe, and Lee Nguyen (5 goals, 2 assists). Their usual backline is young, though generally decent, and veteran Matt Reis still has it. Like the Union, the Revs have struggled a bit defending indirect free kicks, so keep a look out for that. Philadelphia's first road win since their thrilling stoppage time victory in California against the Galaxy on July 4 is there for the taking, if they're up to it.

Projected starters, injury reports, and assorted match notes after the jump...

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: MacMath; G. Farfan, Valdes, Okugo, Williams; Carroll, Lahoud, Cruz; M. Farfan, Martinez, McInerney

New England: Reis; Tierney, Soares, McCarthy, Alston; Nguyen, Guy, Simms, Rowe; Brettschneider, Sene

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, Krystian Witkowski remains unavailable due to concussion symptoms. Chris Alright (left groin strain) and Bakary Soumare (right knee inflammation) are "questionable".

For New England, Sainey Nyassi (right adductor strain) and Bobby Shuttleworth (left knee sprain) are unavailable. Blair Gavin (left hamstring tightness) is "doubtful". Lee Nguyen (left ankle sprain) and Alec Purdie (left ankle sprain) are "probable".

(Note that, as of posting time, MLS has not released its final injury report listings for this weekend's matches. You can always check for the latest injury reports, in case any Union or Revolution player's status has changed. For example, Carlos Valdes's official status is currently unknown after he suffered a hamstring injury on Wednesday against Columbus.)

Of note:

  • Drew Fischer is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In just three career MLS matches (!), he has called an average of 27 fouls per match, handed out an average of 2.3 yellow cards per match, and has yet to give a red card or award a penalty kick.
  • Gabriel Gomez, Gabriel Farfan, and Michael Farfan are all just one yellow card away from receiving an automatic one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation.
  • The Union are unbeaten all-time against New England, including 2-0-0 at Gillette Stadium.
  • The Revs have scored 10 of their 33 goals within the first fifteen minutes of matches, and 18 of their 33 within the first thirty minutes.
Ironically enough, the home stretch for the Union begins on the road. Whether manager John Hackworth will begin making changes to the side he tried so desperately to push into playoff position is unclear, but what is clear is that the focus at this point is on next season. The story is similar for New England. Still, the Union's success all-time against New England (and the tendency for matches between the two to be rather dramatic) ought to be more than enough to make it worth tuning in. If you're going to be watching the match tomorrow night, we hope you can join us here for a gamethread!