Philadelphia Union return home after a mid-week trip to Sporting Kansas City, to play their third match in eight days versus conference foe New England Revolution. Revs are coming off of their own surprising result, in which they pummeled league leaders, Seattle Sounders, 5-0. Union fans will get to cheer their side after their only win since their opening win, against New England.
What to Expect From the Philadelphia Union
Philadelphia entertained Wednesday night with the most unexpected result of this season to date, winning at Sporting KC, on a short week, missing their normal starting defensive midfield. Amobi Okugo took the injured Brian Carroll's place, both in midfield and in the captaincy. Sheanon Williams filled in for Okugo, allowing Raymon Gaddis to play his more natural right back position, which also allowed Fabinho to play the left side. The win didn't come without a cost, however. Danny Cruz, who notched his first goal of the season, was subbed out of the match in the 78th minute with what appeared to be an ailment with his right hamstring. His status for Saturday is as of yet unknown, though Sebastien Le Toux would be a like-for-like replacement. Corben Bone made an auspicious cameo as a 2nd half sub, getting a straight red for a reckless tackle, so he is unavailable for the weekend tilt. Fabinho picked up a yellow card during the first half, which saw him reach the quota to earn a one-match ban.
This makes for some interesting choices for manager John Hackworth to make regarding his starting XI. He doesn't seem to have many options regarding who starts around center back Austin Berry, and where.
The makeshift center back pairing played well, in a scramble while playing with the parked bus kind of way. Sheanon Williams was excellent as Okugo's deputy, making many an interception to thwart SKC attacks. Berry played well off of the speedy Williams, using his taller frame to provide the stoutness and control of aerial crosses necessary for the diverse attack that Sporting has. While it's good to know that they can work together, it doesn't seem likely they'll get to reprise their partnership. Maurice Edu is still away in US National Team camp, Michael Lahoud is also on national team duty with Sierra Leone. The wild card in the lineup equation is the health of Brian Carroll. If healthy, he'll retake his central midfield spot, and the armband, which will put Okugo back at center half, pushing Williams to right fullback, and having Ray Gaddis go to the left for the suspended Fabinho.
However, should Carroll still not be able to give it a go, the gray area expands. Will Hackworth leave Okugo in the CDM spot he excelled in Wednesday night? The scenario would likely see a center back pairing of Austin Berry and Aaron Wheeler, with Williams right, and Gaddis left. The center back tandem is the spot that would worry me. Both Berry and Wheeler play the role of aerial ball winner, playing off of the quicker, better-passing CB. Other alternatives include recalling a player or two from Harrisburg to start, or serve as depth, or start Casey and have Andrew Wenger move back in the formation to serve in the midfield. Hackworth will have to decide which spot he'll leave more vulnerable. I foresee Carroll playing, but it'll be another interesting lineup if he doesn't.
What to Expect From New England
The Revs are well-rested and coming in with a three-match winning streak, but they are still winless all-time at PPL Park. That streak continued in week 2, Union's 2014 home opener. But, New England won two of three matches last year against Philly, both at Gillette Field. On top of the Revs good recent form, they have had an excellent season, proven by their being second place in the Eastern Conference standings. Diego Fagundez highlighted his team's surprising performance last week with two goals. What doesn't go on the score sheet, but rather what keeps names off of it, has been Andrew Farrell's ability to move into the center back spot in place of Jose Goncalves. They've only allowed one goal in those last 3 matches.
Again, this is Union's third match in 8 days. The Revs are playing very well. I do not expect Philadelphia's chaotic defending from midweek to be able to be sustained with the personnel shortages they'll have to deal with. New England will be too much for the depleted defense corps. I expect a 3-1 New England victory.
Projected Union Starting XI:
Sheanon Williams - Amobi Okugo - Austin Berry - Ray Gaddis
Leo Fernandes - Brian Carroll
Sebastien Le Toux - Vincent Nogueira - Cristian Maidana
Again, this is Union's third match in 8 days. The Revs are playing very well. I do not expect Philadelphia's chaotic defending from midweek to be able to be sustained with the personnel shortages they'll have to deal with. Though I think they get Brian Carroll back, New England will be too much for the fatigued "Boys in Blue and Gold".
I expect a 3-1 New England victory.